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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Ryan Zimmerman filling in; Victor Robles and Kevin Long + Juan Soto lately...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s daily media availability on Friday...


Following a 2 for 5 game on June 1st in which he hit a double and a home run, 36-year-old Washington Nationals’ first baseman Ryan Zimmerman was 29 for 91 (.319/.347/.593) with seven doubles and six home runs in 33 games (18 starts) and 95 plate appearances in the 2005 1st Round pick’s 16th MLB season.

Zimmerman slowed over the weeks that followed, however, going 5 for 38 (.132/.175/.289) in 15 games (8 starts) and 40 PAs over that stretch, which included his 0 for 4, BB, night in the first game of the Nationals’ four-game set with the Miami Marlins on Thursday in what’s now being called loanDepot park. [ed. note - “Stylized capitalization theirs, and it’s appalling.”]

Zimmerman filled in for a scratched Josh Bell in the series opener with the Fish, with Davey Martinez explaining in the Nationals’ post game Zoom call with reporters that Bell tweaked something in his side and was headed for an MRI. Martinez told the everyday first baseman in D.C. that they wanted to handle it carefully if it was an oblique so it didn’t turn into more than it was.

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

“He said he didn’t feel anything yesterday, came in today, tried to take a couple swings, and he said it just acted up on him, he’s had an oblique before, and he came and talked to me about it, and I told him, I said, ‘Hey, let’s be smart about it. That’s why we have Zim, and we’ll get you an MRI as soon as we possibly can,’ which is tomorrow morning, and then we’ll go from there.”

[ed. note - “Bell’s MRI came back clean, and Martinez said he should be back in tomorrow.”]

Zimmerman has said over the first few months of the 2021 season that he could play for extended periods if necessary, but at this point in his career he’s better off playing part-time so he can try to stay healthy and contribute after struggling to stay on the field over the previous years.

With Bell unavailable, Martinez said he would take it day-by-day as far as how often he had Zimmerman play.

“I’m going to go day-to-day with him. I have a conversation with him every day. I send the lineups out at night, and I always ask him in the morning if he’s not feeling good, or feeling great, or if he’s tired or anything, just to let me know and we can do something else.

“So we’re just going to go day-to-day, today he said he felt good and he’s in there today.”

As for what he’s seen from Zimmerman as the production has slowed in recent weeks?

“Yesterday he lined out to left field, hit the ball hard,” Martinez said, “... and I know he hit a ground ball hard to shortstop, but we all know who he is, he can get on a run where he can carry us for a while, and he’ll get on a run. But he’s a veteran guy, he understands the game, he understands his at bats, he knows himself well, so he makes adjustments and that’s the good thing about him, but regardless of his hitting you know what he does on defense, he’s a really good defender, and he can drive in some big runs for us as well.

“This is based on conversation with him as well. Like I said before, I got to make sure that he’s healthy, we want him for the whole year, so [Gerardo] Parra is taking some ground balls at first base as well, he’s played some first base over there, so if we need to use Parra at first base we will.”

Robles and Long:

Kevin Long using a net across home plate to help hitters shorten their swing and get at pitches inside is something that got a lot of attention when he was a hitting coach for both New York teams, and on Friday afternoon in Miami, reporters covering the Nationals noted that he was doing the same with Victor Robles in some pregame drills a few hours before a matchup with the Marlins.

“Yeah, trying to keep his hands inside the baseball,” Martinez explained in his pregame Zoom call with reporters on Friday afternoon.

“We talked about that, he went out there and they did some work today, but one, try to get him inside that baseball, not around the baseball, but like I said, he is walking a lot more, he’s being more consistent now, it’s about when he does take a swing and he fouls the balls back, and he has a good swing, those balls need to get put in play, and we’re working on him staying shorter and going directly towards the baseball.”

In 62 games and 213 PAs before Friday night’s matchup with the Marlins, Robles, 24, had a .229/.346/.313 line with 13 doubles, one triple, 24 walks, and 47 Ks. How does his manager assess the first few months of the outfielder’s 2021 campaign?

“He’s getting better as far as recognizing pitches in the zone, and he’s taking swings at balls in the zone,” Martinez said.

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

“As I always say, with two strikes, it’s tough to hit in the big leagues, so when he gets a pitch to hit early in the count, he can’t foul it off, he’s got to put the ball in play. And this is something that we’re constantly talking to him about. You saw him on the field today working, he does the same work in the cage, but they wanted to bring him out in the field to show him how the ball comes off the bat. So, he’s getting it, it’s taking some time, but hopefully he can stay inside those balls, and use the whole field, and get inside the fastballs on the inside part of the plate, and pull the balls a little bit better. So we’re just going to continue to work with him, because we know what his ability can do. He’s an unbelievable outfielder as we all know, he’s an exciting player, so if we can get him on base more and start hitting the ball — and I’m not talking about hitting home runs, I’m just talking about just him putting the ball in play hard, hitting doubles, because I really believe that he’s a 30-40 doubles guy, if we can get him on there he can do a lot for us in the bottom of that order, flip it up to the top.”

What About Juan?:

In the last 15 games before Friday’s matchup in Miami, Washington was 12-3 with plenty of firepower from Kyle Schwarber helping the cause, but what, Davey Martinez was asked in his pregame Zoom call before the second of four with the Marlins, would a red-hot stretch from Juan Soto at the plate add to the mix for the surging Nationals?

Soto hasn’t exactly been on a cold streak, posting a .269/.377/.385 line with three doubles and a home run in the last 15 games, with nine walks and 10 Ks over that stretch, but what would the lineup look like with 2020 Soto tearing it up at the plate?

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

“For me, he had two great at bats yesterday, two doubles, two RBIs,” Martinez said.

“If he can do that consistently, I always preach, he’s going to hit home runs, but he’s getting the ball in the air to the pull side, which is great, that’s great news for us, so we got to continue to keep him there. We know what kind of hitter he is, and you see glimpses of him, like I said, of him hitting the ball out front a little bit better, so we got to continue to work with him and get him to do that.

“Once he gets hot, if we can get him hot, we know that he can carry us as well. But for me, as I always tell him every day before he goes up, ‘Stay in the middle of the field, and when the RBIs are available for you, just try to hit the ball hard up the middle of the field, drive in runs,’ and he did that yesterday.”

What did he see from Soto on the two doubles in the series opener in Miami?

“That’s definitely catching the ball a little our front, which means his timing is really good, in that particular at bat. If we can get him consistent with his timing, and getting him back, he consistently hits the ball our front, you’ll get to see him start hitting the ball up in the air and out of the ballpark. But it was a good sign for us yesterday.”