Robles’s Knee and Defense:
Davey Martinez started Gerardo Parra in center on Monday, with Victor Robles unavailable after taking a pitch to the right knee in the series finale in Miami on Sunday.
“Victor is a little sore,” Martinez told reporters before the one-off with New York’s Mets in D.C. on Monday. “A lot better than we thought he was going to be. He’s going to get treatment, he’s going to move around, probably take some swings in the cage, and he’ll be available later on in the game, hopefully, we’re going to get him out and he’s going to run a little bit, but we hope that he’s available to come in the game and play defense or pinch hit.”
[ed. note - “Robles did end up coming on as a defensive replacement in center in the ninth.”]
Robles went 2 for 15 (.133/.350/.200) with a double, four walks, and six strikeouts in 20 plate appearances on the Washington Nationals’ road trip to Philadelphia and Miami, leaving the 24-year-old outfielder with a .223/.344/.304 line, 13 doubles, 25 walks, and 49 Ks in 184 PAs on the season.
As Martinez said in Sunday’s postgame Zoom call, the offense is still a work in progress, but after a down year with the glove as well in 2020’s 60-game campaign, Robles has taken the guidance he received about his build and defense seriously, and improved his game out in center field.
“‘The hitting, you’re going to get it, it’s going to come,’” Martinez said, sharing his advice for Robles in talks with the 24-year-old outfielder, “but hey, let’s not forget the rest of the game.
“Because the minute he stops playing defense, I’m going to have to consider doing something else, but he’s been playing really good out there for us, and like I said, he’s been mixing in his walks as well.”
After Sunday, Robles had +2 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in 498 1⁄3 innings in center field this season, up from -4 DRS in 422 2⁄3 innings in 2020, and his Ultimate Zone Rating in 2021 was up to +1.8 from -3.6, so is the fact that he was able to take the guidance he got on the defensive end and apply it to improve his game a good sign? What has he done to get first step, and to get better reads in center? Will he be able to put the guidance he’s given on offense into practice as well?
“Absolutely,” Martinez said on Monday afternoon. “Like we talked a lot about him even in Spring Training, one is about playing a little bit deeper, he’s better at coming in on balls, than he is going back, and two is his first step.
“We worked diligently to improve his first step to the baseball, and he’s done well on both of those, so that’s why you see his defense, he’s doing so well back there on defense.
“Like I said, he’s a young kid, he’s really intuitive, he’s trying to help us, he’s trying to get better offensively, we talk a lot about getting the ball in the zone with him, he’s doing a lot better at that, so now it’s just — like I said, getting the balls we think he can hit in the strike zone, getting him to put those balls in play, consistently, and not fouling them off.”
And how has Robles, who is, again, 24, taken the fact that the club wanted him to revamp his offensive and defensive games after a down year in 2020?
“I mean, he’s so good,” Martinez said. “He’s, honestly, he’s a joy to be around all the time. He just wants to learn and he wants to help his teammates and help us win as many games as possible.”
There were a slew of brief injury updates from Martinez in Monday’s pregame Zoom, which we’ll run through in a speed round...
Andrew Stevenson - 10-Day IL; Oblique - Stevenson went on the 10-Day IL on June 18th, retroactive to the 17th, with an oblique strain, but Martinez said he’s been making strides.
“I just watched him take some swings off the tee, did a few soft tosses, and he says he feels pretty good. It’s the first time he’s swung, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Martinez said on Monday.
Stephen Strasburg - 10-Day IL; Neck Strain - Stephen Strasburg went on the 10-Day IL with a neck strain on June 2nd, and he’s been making slow progress in recent weeks as the Nationals build up his arm strength again and try to get the irritation out of his neck.
How did he feel on Monday after throwing a bullpen on Sunday in Miami?
“He was good,” Martinez said. “He came back good. He’s playing long-toss today, we’ll see how he feels today, and then we’ll go from there.”
Daniel Hudson - 10-Day IL - Elbow Inflammation - Davey Martinez turned to Daniel Hudson often early this season, and the veteran right-hander ended up on the IL with right elbow inflammation on June 12th. He’s been throwing again too, and the Nats’ skipper provided an update on Hudson as well on Monday.
“He’s getting close to throwing a bullpen,” Martinez said.
“I’ll talk to him today, but I’m thinking, from what we talked about, he might throw a bullpen on Wednesday, but we’ll see how everything goes today and we’ll go from there.”
Erick Fedde - 10-Day IL - Oblique - Erick Fedde went on the IL this past weekend (on 6/27, retroactive to 6/24) with an oblique strain, and he’s feeling better after a few days of rest.
“He said he felt a little bit better yesterday,” Martinez said, “... but he’s just going to have to get treatment. He can’t throw as of right now. He’s just going to get a bunch of treatment, [strengthen] that area up and we’ll go from there.”
Will He Say 1-0 Today?:
Another intrepid reporter tried to get Martinez to talk big picture before the one-off with the current NL East division leader on Monday, with the Nationals’ run as of late getting them up into second place in the East, 4.0 games back heading into play last night. This time he got a little bit more of an answer than usual, but the skipper ended up on brand as always.
“Hey, it’s tight,” he said of the division race. “We’re all battling every day. So it’s going to be a fun end to this first half and going into the second half, so for us, we just got to continue to play good baseball, we’ve still got some catching up to do, so we got some teams ahead of us, so for us we’ve got to continue to play good baseball. You know, my focus is on the Nationals and what we can do, so I worry about what we can do and play each game one game a time and try to go 1-0 every day like I’ve always preached.”
And the homestand as a whole, with one against the Mets last night, two with the Rays in two days, and then four with the Dodgers? Then the trip out the West Coast to face the Padres and Giants? It’s quite a stretch heading into the break...
“It’s going to be exciting,” Martinez said. “Good baseball. We got to focus on today, we’ve got the Mets today coming in today for one game, go 1-0 today, and then we got Tampa coming in, who’s been playing really well, but all these teams that are coming in, they’re right at the top of their division, so we just got to focus on today and try to win our day.”