Nationals’ First-Half Standout:
Heading into the series and first-half finale with the Giants in San Francisco on Sunday, Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez was asked about performances or some moments that stood out from the first first 88 games of the 2021 campaign. Of course, there was no way he could ignore Kyle Schwarber’s ridiculous run in June.
In 24 games and 100 plate appearances between June 8th, when Martinez moved him to the leadoff spot for the first time this season, and July 2nd, when he suffered a significant hamstring injury that landed him on the 10-Day IL, Schwarber, 28, put up a .318/.400/.894 line with one double, 16 home runs, 12 walks, and 29 Ks over that stretch, which powered the Nationals’ 19-9 month of June.
“You saw Kyle do what he [did],” Martinez told reporters. “What an incredible run for him. And hopefully we get him back soon.”
Martinez was clear when Schwarber went on the IL that it wasn’t just going to be a 10-game stint. How’s Schwarber progressing?
“I think he — right now we talked a lot about him going to the All-Star Game,” Martinez said, with Schwarber earning an All-Star nod for the first time in his career, only to have to go on the IL so he can’t play. “Obviously he won’t be able to participate, but I told him, “It’s your first one, you need to go. You need to be amongst your peers. You’re the best of the first half, and go and have some fun and enjoy it, it’s a great experience, especially for your first time.’ So focus on that and then let’s worry about the other stuff after that. He’s itching to come back, this guy is working unbelievably hard to get back as soon as he possibly can and hopefully we get him back soon.”
Schwarber has down some light jogging, he’s hit off a tee, from a stool, and standing now, and though he’s still sore after these workouts, Martinez said, “... it’s hard to keep this guy down.”
“This guy understands what it means for him to get back for this team,” Martinez explained.
“Also for his morale. The guy loves to play baseball, that’s who Kyle is, and it kills him when he’s just sitting around not being able to help his teammates out in the field. His attitude has been great. He’s been cheering his teammates on, he’s very loud in the dugout during the games, so I love having him around, but I want him back on the field as soon as possible.”
More Injury Updates: Avila and Stras
Alex Avila landed on the 10-Day IL on July 3rd with bilateral calf strains, a couple days after he was pressed into action as an infielder with injuries decimating the big league roster in D.C. How is the 34-year-old catcher progressing?
“He’s doing good,” Martinez told reporters, and the manager is hoping that the All-Star break can help Avila and all the injured players heal up some.
“Hopefully these guys — we’ve got four days off. We’ll reevaluate these guys when they come back, but hopefully some of these guys will come back here soon. Real soon.
“But [Avila is] doing well. He’s hitting in the cage. He took some battling practice. He’s done some running, so hopefully in the next four days, these guys that are on the IL, they’re going to go home and they’ve got to continue to build, they know that, because we need them to come back.”
Speaking of injured players, or pitchers in this case, Stephen Strasburg threw a sim game last week, and he’s working his way back from a neck strain which landed him on the IL in early June. But Martinez said he’s going to, obviously, need a rehab stint before he returns.
“Stras is going to be — like I said, we got send — Stras is going to have to go pitch. He’s just building arm strength right now still. I know he’s been on the mound, he’s been throwing bullpens, but we got to be a little more cautious with Stras. Like I said, we want him — when he comes back, we want him to come back strong and finish out the season with us and not have any more recurring injuries.”
At some point after the break, he’ll head out to an affiliate. Max Scherzer talked over the weekend in San Francisco about what getting Strasburg back would mean to the club.
“If we can get Stras back,” Scherzer said, “if we can get him back, that can really provide us a shot in the arm to really get going, and that’s the way we’re going to have to win this year.”
Jakson the Nick of Time:
Davey Martinez sent 2014 3rd Round pick Jakson Reetz out for a first MLB plate appearance late in Saturday afternoon’s loss to the San Francisco Giants. Reetz doubled to right-center field for his first major league hit.
“It’s awesome for him,” Martinez said after the game. But it almost didn’t happen. Reetz was called up after Yan Gomes (left oblique strain) landed on the IL after suffering the injury late on Saturday. Reetz had to fly across the country to join the team in Oracle Park.
“He gets on a plane, we didn’t get him until the game started, he came out to the dugout, saw him, and it was the perfect opportunity just to give him an at bat, and hit a rocket into right field, which was awesome, a double, so congratulations to him and his family, but that’s the start for him.”
Martinez went into more detail about what it took to get the backup backstop to the West Coast, explaining that Reetz really arrived just in time.
“He got in here when the game started,” Martinez said. “He had a delay. He got in. He started talking to everybody, and talking to pitchers, doing everything the catcher is supposed to be doing just in case he has to get in there and catch. I thought for me the way the game was going, I wanted to get him out and get him a pinch hit appearance, just to get that one at bat, and obviously it was an opportunity for him to get that first at bat out of the way and he comes up and hits a bullet to right field, which was great, and the guys were excited for him, he was excited, so it was good. If there was any positive yesterday, that was the positive.”
And why did he make sure to get Reetz in there? To avoid a potential Moonlight Graham sort of situation?
“When you get a young guy that’s never been in the major leagues like that, I try to get him in as soon as possible and it worked out to where it wasn’t really a high-leverage situation,” Martinez said. “He was able to go out there and try to relax the best he can, because I know — I’ve done that, and it’s tough, but like I said, he handled it really well.”