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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Patrick Corbin in 2021; Randy Knorr working on running game + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s daily media availability on Saturday afternoon...

Martinez on Pillar on Corbin:

New York Mets’ outfielder Kevin Pillar talked after he went 1 for 2 with a home run and a walk off of Patrick Corbin last week in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park, about what he saw from the southpaw in their matchups in the nation’s capital.

“He’s pretty good,” Pillar told reporters. “He’s obviously not the same guy he used to be, but he still has good pitchability, he was able to sink the ball, he still has a great slider, guys like him that don’t necessarily have their great stuff anymore that still know how to pitch can still be difficult at bats. A guy like him, he’s not going to overwhelm you with stuff right now, but you got to stay super-disciplined with your approach.”

Corbin debuted in the majors as a 22-year-old in 2012, and he had Tommy John surgery in 2014, so of course he’s changed as a pitcher over the years, but “not the same guy”?

We asked Davey Martinez for his perspective on Pillar’s comments and the changes he has seen from Corbin in their three years together in D.C. (2019-2021).

“Apparently, Pillar saw him pretty well that day,” Martinez said, “but you know ... he’s still got really good stuff, and we always talked his slider, his slider is his pitch.

“When he can throw it, especially down and in to righties effectively, that’s his bread and butter right there.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

“But I think for the most part, if you look back at those at bats, if he fell behind or they cheated early on to get a pitch that they thought they were going to get, they hit it hard, but other than that I thought that he pitched really well.”

Through 14 starts and 76 23 IP before Saturday afternoon’s game in Miami, Corbin had a 5.40 ERA, 5.08 FIP, 28 walks (3.29 BB/9), and 62 Ks (7.28 K/9) three months into the third year of his 6-year/$140M deal with Washington.

What adjustments has Corbin made over the course of his first three seasons in D.C.?

“As you get older and as you’re in this league a lot longer, you have to find ways to get these guys out,” Martinez said.

“I mean, you face them so many times, and Patrick is doing that now. His fastball is live, he’s got a two-seamer, he’s trying to throw more four-seamers, he’s throwing a changeup which he’s developed a little bit, we’re trying to get him to throw it to a better location at times, and know when to throw it, but like I said, when his slider is on, he’s tough. He’s tough on anybody, and when he’s got that going, you expect him to go out there and give us six or seven innings.”

Corbin struggled throughout the 60-game COVID campaign in 2020, with a start-stop-and-start-again build-up to teams finally playing wreaking havoc on arms around baseball. In his first year with the Nationals he helped the club win the World Series in 2019, but he landed on the COVID-IL early this year when there was an outbreak in the organization, so is it hard to judge pitchers at this point, with so much going on these last two years that has affected them?

“It’s tough. It really is,” Martinez said. “We talked about it, having these conversations with Max [Scherzer] last year, as we all know Max struggled a lot last year, and he felt like towards the end of the year, he really started feeling like he was getting it going, and then all of a sudden the year was over, so, and then you’ve got to reboot yourself, you’ve got to take time off and reboot yourself and come back this year, but you never know, like I said, I talked to [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey all winter long about what to try to expect from our starting pitchers this year, because you never know. They did sit out a long time, they got ramped up, they sat out, and then they tried to get ramped up again so fast, it was hard, and now we’re trying to get them going, and now in the heat of the summer, you’re seeing them all start to pick it up a little bit and it’s been really good.”

Randy Knorr’s Impact on Running Game:

Yan Gomes finished the 2020 campaign with a career-worst 18% caught stealing% in the 60-game season. Alex Avila, in Minnesota, posted a 27% CS% for the Twins last season.

Gomes went into Saturday’s game with a 41% CS% on the year in 2021. Avila was up to 38%.

There are, of course, plenty of factors that have played a role in that improvement by the two backstops in D.C., including all the work the pitchers have done to improving their times to the plate, and varying their looks, and recently Davey Martinez talked about the role first base coach Randy Knorr has played in turning it around for the club after they struggled throwing runners out last year.

“He’s been working with our pitchers on getting a little quicker,” Martinez explained. “As you know we’ve thrown out quite a bit of guys this year with Yan Gomes and Alex, but that all pertains about [Knorr] being on the pitchers about being quicker, being aware of the runners, which guys can run from first base and from second base, so we’ve been really good with that and a lot of it has to do with Randy.”

MLB: JUN 22 Nationals at Phillies Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 20 runners the Nationals threw out heading into Saturday’s game were the most in the majors thus far in 2021, and, Martinez reiterated before the third of four with the Marlins, it really has been a result of a lot of the work Knorr has done since he was added to the staff after the skipper signed a long-term extension last winter.

“He’s been tremendous,” Martinez said. “Randy, I gave him the whole baserunning thing on his own, and controlling the running game, and he’s done really well at it. He talks to Yan before each game, about which guys are going to run, counts that they might run on, what to look for, he’s been really good.

“Baserunning-wise, the same. He’s told guys the counts that they should run on, which guys are slow, what to look for on a pitcher, keys to how to get a better jump, so he’s been really really good over there, very intuitive, like I knew he would be. I’ve known Randy for a long time and he knows a lot about the game.”

Having a former big league catcher, whose job it was to monitor such things handle them for the club now makes a lot of sense.

“Absolutely,” Martinez said. “No doubt about it. He understands. This is something that he looked for as a catcher.”

Yadi Dadi Rochester Party:

Yadiel Hernández was optioned to Triple-A Rochester earlier this month, to get regular at bats after filling in for an injured Juan Soto and then moving into a bench role, but as the Nationals’ skipper said after sending the 33-year-old slugger down, he also wanted him to play the outfield again and get his swing right after seeing limited action in the majors.

MLB: JUN 02 Nationals at Braves Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Through 10 games with the Nationals’ top minor league affiliate, Hernández is 10 for 39 (.256/.310/.436) with a double, two home runs, three walks, and eight Ks, and Martinez reported on Saturday that he’s hearing good things from upstate New York.

“They said he’s starting to hit the ball well again and that’s a good sign,” Martinez said. “He’s getting on top of baseballs. The biggest thing here, I felt like because he was only getting one at bat, he was trying to do too much, which always happens, but now he’s starting to hit the ball the other way, taking fastballs, and not missing them, and that’s a good sign. So we just wanted to get him going again, and like I said before, it won’t be the last time you see Yadi. He can hit, and I know he can help us here, but he can help us when he’s swinging the bat well.”