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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on the key to the batter’s box; Kyle Schwarber signing + more...

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

LET THEM PLAY! LET THEM PLAY!:

Davey Martinez told reporters before last night’s game, with the threat of rain in the forecast on an already-soggy day in D.C., that he would, of course, prefer that the Nationals and their opponents for the long holiday weekend play the first of four as scheduled to avoid having a doubleheader with the Los Angeles Dodgers at some point in the next three days. Though it obviously wasn’t up to him, since the weather is out of his control.

“You’d want to play today,” Martinez said. “Honestly, these doubleheaders puts a damper on our pitching, especially our bullpen, but like I said, I can’t control the weather, so we’ll see in the next couple hours what happens.”

Coming off a 19-9 month of June which got the Nationals back in the division race, Martinez talked about going into a big series with the NL West’s second-place Dodgers, and his focus heading in the four-game matchup, after which the club will travel to San Diego and to San Francisco to round out the pre-All-Star Break schedule.

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

“We’re playing well, we’re swinging the bats, our pitching is doing well, so just got to focus on us and go 1-0 today,” Martinez said, once again declining to look past the task at hand.

“If we play today, we’ll go 1-0 today. That’s been what we’ve been doing the last few weeks, just focus on us and be ready to play.”

The 1-0 every day catchphrase is his mantra, of course, and Martinez’s focus is always on his own team, and what they need to do to succeed.

But though he won’t often talk about it, the Nationals are well prepared for what lies ahead of the present day.

“We do our due diligence, we’ve already had meetings on the Dodgers being that it’s a new series. We give the guys a plan on what we think is going to transpire, and then you just got to go out there and have the players play. Like I said, these guys are all playing well, and swinging the bats well, we’re playing good baseball as a team, which is really awesome to see.”

More Schwarber Please:

Kyle Schwarber said when he signed his 1-year/$10M with the Nationals this past January, that the presence of Davey Martinez on the bench in D.C., with whom he had history, was definitely a plus when he had to make a decision on a new home.

“Obviously having the relationship with Davey was a big factor,” Schwarber said.

He came up with the Cubs while Martinez was the bench coach in Chicago, “... and once I heard that [the Nationals] had interest, it was definitely something I wanted to pursue and we were able to work everything out and as soon as everything was in line, I was ready to say yes right away and get this thing going and make this thing official.”

Schwarber got off to a slow start with the Nationals, but since he moved to the leadoff spot in the middle of last month, the 28-year-old slugger has a .309/.389/.901 line with 16 home runs in 22 games, which, not bad.

Schwarber struggled in 2020’s 60-game campaign, but when the Nationals considered the possibility, Martinez was all for the club signing the outfielder.

“The thing that stands out about Kyle is what I always talk about,” he said when asked why he was sold on the idea of Schwarber in D.C., “you watch him and he competes, and he wants to win every day. And if he sees a teammate not doing what they’re supposed to do, he’s not afraid to have those tough conversations with them as well, so not only on the field does he do what he’s supposed to do to help us win, but off the field, in clubhouse, he’s that guy that communicates with the players. He’s always a guy that tries to stay positive and tries to pump up his teammates, and he’s just one of those that I’ve always said when I saw him I’d love to have him on the team, love to have him on our team and when we had the opportunity to do that, it was a no-brainer when I was talking to [GM Mike] Rizzo about trying to sign him and bring him here. I thought he would be a good fit, and he has been.”

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Schwarber was asked recently if he was playing with a chip on his shoulder this season, after he was non-tendered by the Cubs last winter, but he told reporters it was more an issue of proving something to himself than proving someone else wrong, whether it was Chicago, or the teams that didn’t pursue him in free agency.

“I definitely think that it’s not a way that you ever want to finish out a tenure with a team,” he said of being non-tendered by the Cubs. “And I wouldn’t say that I’m going out there and trying to prove the team that I got let go from something, it’s more about going out there and doing it for me. Knowing that I’m a better baseball player than what I was last year. And yeah, home runs are great and everything like that, but my biggest thing is, like I said, I just want to go out there and try to help my team win that day. If it’s on the offensive side of the ball, defensive side of the ball, or in the dugout, in the clubhouse, whatever it is. Just find something that day to impact your teammates and the game.”

“I think for him personally,” Martinez said when asked a variation of the question about a possible chip on Schwarber’s shoulder before Thursday’s game.

“He wants to be the best he can possibly be in everything he does. He works hard on his defense, he works hard on running the bases, he works hard on hitting. He works hard on knowing how to drive in runs from guys on third base with less than two outs. Everything, every aspect of the game, he works hard, and he also works hard on staying positive, and I think that’s something that helped him get out of the funk that he was in earlier, is that he was ready to go every single day, and every day I talked to him he would tell me, ‘I’m going to go 4 for 4 today.’ No matter what, he always thought that, ‘I’m going to go 4 for 4 today.’ And I would always tell him, I’d say, ‘Hey, let’s just focus on going 1 for 1 first, and then we’ll go from there.’”

Key To What?:

With all the talk of the key to the batter’s box that Davey Martinez’s club has been passing around in recent weeks after the manager introduced it into the Nationals’ dugout, there was one obvious question.

But first, if you didn’t read previous stories about said key, the Nats’ skipper recounted the history:

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

“I was sitting in the dugout and I was thinking — I think the game was like 1-0 or something like that — and I just literally told Bogie [bench coach Tim Bogar], ‘Hey I need a key.’ And he was like, ‘What do you want the key for?’ I said, ‘Go get me a key, I need a key right now.’ And he ran down and got me a key, and I just held up the key, and said, ‘Hey, guys, this is the key.’ And they looked at me and, ‘The key for what?’ And I said, ‘The key to the batter’s box,’ and I said, ‘Go open that batter’s box and take some swings and let’er rip and see what happens,’ and like I said, now all of a sudden the key gets passed around, I put it on a little shoestring, and I hold the key and the first guy to hit a home run, or drive in a run, they get the key and they get to pass it on to the next guy, so it’s been a lot of fun.”

But the aforementioned obvious question, was where exactly did Bogie find a random key that no one would need, and what exactly is it the key too, since, as new bat boys learn in time, there is no literal key to the batter’s box. So what does it open?

“The door to the batter’s box,” Martinez chided the reporter who asked. “You should come try it.”

But, no, seriously? Be serious.

“No, I don’t even know. I don’t,” Martinez said.

“I don’t know, I really don’t. I should try to open something with it.”

“Hey, I almost, actually, I have a key to my office, and I was going to use that, and I thought, ‘Uh, no. I’m not going to use that key, I might not get that one back.’”