Schwarbombs vs The Hawk:
Before Kyle Schwarber led off last night’s game with his 7th leadoff home run in the first at bat of a game since moving to the leadoff spot earlier this month, No. 16 in 18 games, and No. 25 overall on the season, Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez was asked for any comparison he could think of for what he’s seen from his left fielder this month.
Martinez, a veteran of 16 seasons in the majors as a player before he became a coach and a manager, eventually, thought about it and then went back to his playing days, and the year 1987, when the Chicago Cubs signed Andre Dawson after 11 years in Montreal for the hard-hitting outfielder, who put up a .280/.326/.476 line with a 162-game average of 34 doubles and 26 home runs with the Expos.
In his first season in Chicago, Dawson put up a .287/.328/.568 line with 24 doubles and an NL-leading 49 home runs, winning the NL MVP award in his first season with the Cubs.
[ed. note - “Martinez put up a .292/.372/.418 with 18 doubles, eight triples and eight home runs that season. Skip could swing it.”]
Martinez was there watching it all, hitting a few spots in front of Dawson, who ended up getting elected to the Hall of Fame after a 21-year career in the majors.
“Not my first year, my first full year with the Cubs, we signed Andre Dawson, and he played for us, and it was a big deal,” Martinez said. “He came and showed up at Spring Training kind of later, and I heard a lot about the kind of guy he was, saw him play as a kid, but he came over and he had 49 home runs that year, and I led off for most of the year, and just to watch him, every time I got on base there was a good chance he was going to hit one out of the ballpark, and it was pretty awesome. It was the first time I’ve ever really seen something like that.”
Dawson had streaks of 7 HRs in 11 games, 10 HRs in 20 games, 10 in 14, and 9 in 15 in 1987.
“And I’m looking at Kyle now,” Martinez continued, “... and you do have that sense where you’re sitting up there, and you see him working counts, and I tell myself, ‘Hey, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but there’s a good chance that he’s going to hit this ball hard, and maybe far, I mean, and it’s just — he’s been doing that, and it really has been an incredible run. Like I said yesterday, you know, for me, I just tell him — every day I tell him, ‘Stay within yourself, don’t start going up there and trying to hit home runs. Just hit the ball hard. You’ve got enough power to hit the ball out anywhere.’ And the good thing was, watching his last at bat, against [Mets’ reliever Miguel] Castro, he took a 100MPH fastball and hit a bullet to left field, which was awesome. And when he’s doing that, and I’ve seen him do that before, that means that his timing is good, he’s seeing the ball well, he’s letting the ball travel, so good things are to come. So, I hope he continues to stay that way.”
Never change, Kyle.
“He’s done great,” Martinez added, “... and like I said, you’re only seeing the part where he’s hitting home runs and stuff, but what he brings to our clubhouse, and as a player and as a teammate, has been awesome.”
His reaction after Schwarber hit another leadoff blast on Tuesday night?
“Like I said yesterday, I really haven’t seen nothing like that. But once again, I just hope he keeps it going. And the at bats, he had good at bats all day today, he lined out a few times, really good at bats, so my concern is that, that he continues to have good at bats, he continues to hit the ball in the strike zone, and he takes his walks, and tonight he hit the ball hard.”
Roster Moves - Rainey Heads To IL:
Before last night’s game, the Nationals announced a series of roster moves:
· Recalled right-handed pitcher Ryne Harper from Triple-A Rochester
· Selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Kyle Lobstein from Triple-A Rochester
· Placed right-handed pitcher Tanner Rainey (retroactive to June 28) on the 10-day Injured List with a stress reaction in his right tibia
· Designated right-handed pitcher Justin Miller for assignment
The big surprise there was Tanner Rainey ending up on the IL with a stress reaction in his right tibia, which, how, and huh?
“It was Sunday,” Martinez said. “He was pitching and he felt his right leg, his shin area start to bother him a lot, he came off the field, it was really bothering him, went and got an MRI, and it revealed he has a stress reaction in his right tibia. So, for him —- it’s his push-off leg, so we want to make sure that we get that taken care of, because we don’t want that to become some other big issue, all of a sudden he starts changing his mechanics and it becomes something else.
“We’re going to take care of the issue, and hopefully we can get him back as soon as we possibly can. But it stinks because he’s been throwing the ball really well, and he worked really hard to get to where he was last year, but we’re going to get him right.”
In his last 10 appearances, Rainey, who had a rough start to the 2021 campaign, has put up a 0.96 ERA and a .100/.289/.200 line against with six walks and 10 Ks in 9 1⁄3 IP.
Is this tibia issue considered a minor thing? Or what’s the concern-level?
“We’ll see,” Martinez said.
“This is the report I get. I talked to him earlier today, says he doesn’t feel it when he’s just walking around, which is good news, but it does act up on him, so he’s been getting treatment yesterday and today, and he’s going to continue to get treatment and then we’ll see where he’s at day to day.”
Kyle Lobstein, one of two pitchers called up, along with Ryne Harper, is back in the majors for the first time since 2016, which was his third big league season after debuting with the Detroit Tigers in 2014.
Lobstein, 31, has been plugging away in the minors the last few years, and didn’t pitch at all in 2020’s COVID season, but he signed with the Nationals this winter, and before he got the call, he had a 1.69 ERA, eight walks, and 25 Ks in 21 1⁄3 IP at Triple-A Rochester.
“I’ve seen videos of him,” Martinez said when asked for a scouting report. “His stuff is good ... he’s got big league time, and he’s got four pitches. What I like about him, he’s another guy like Sam [Clay], he throws 70% ground balls, and that’s good. He’s going to be used.
“Like I told him, I said, ‘Hey, we’re going to use you and get you in the game as soon as possible and just be ready.”
Lobstein’s GB% isn’t quite as high as Martinez stated... it was 69.4% in Rochester. He politely rounded up.
Joe Ross’s Workload:
Martinez and Co. on the Nationals’ bench talked in Spring Training and throughout the first few months of this season about handling Joe Ross and Stephen Strasburg carefully after [most of a] year off for both pitchers, after Ross opted out of playing in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, and Strasburg was injured and limited to two starts and five innings on the mound. Strasburg is once again dealing with injuries, so he’s been limited again this season, though he did get a throwing session in again.
A quick Strasburg update? Is there a timeline for his return?
“There’s no timeline, we’re going to continue to gradually get him ready, the good news is he’s progressing well, he’s feeling good, and we’ll keep building him up,” Martinez said.
“I don’t know when he’s going to be able to pitch on the mound for us, but he’s getting there, so we’re going to continue to watch him and continue to build him up.”
And Ross? He’s started fairly steadily all season, with a few extra days’ rest at one point, but for the most part he’s been pitching regularly. Is there a plan in place to limit his innings, or did that plan run into the reality of the baseball season?
“We’re — every day we’re keeping an eye on Joe,” Martinez said before Ross went 6 1⁄3 on 88 pitches in a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“The fact that he went eight innings his last outing, we got to watch him today and see how far he can take us, but we’re definitely going to have to keep an eye on Joe, and even when Stephen comes back, because he missed so much time, we’ll have to keep an eye on him as well, but you know, the good news is, once these guys get healthy, and Paolo [Espino] keeps doing what he’s doing, there could be a point in time where we have to stick Paolo in, and give these guys an extra day or even just have them skip a start and just put Paolo in there for the time being.
“We’ll map all this stuff out. Right now we’re really focused on trying to get to that All-Star Break with the guys that we got and we’ll see how things transpire here in the next day or two, but hopefully we get a lot of innings from our starters because our bullpen definitely does need it.”