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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Stephen Strasburg throwing a bullpen; Andrew Stevenson’s hair + Josh Bell in left

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on ... what day is it? Monday, Monday...

Strasnews; Strasdate; UpStras; Upburg:

Last we heard on Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals decided to slow things a bit with his rehab work from the neck strain that landed him on the 10-Day IL in early June, with Strasburg feeling “discomfort” in the same area after throwing a sim game last week, but a couple reporters in Nationals Park on Monday saw the 32-year-old righty throwing off of the bullpen mound, which presumably meant that he felt better. So, was that the case?

“Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen today,” Davey Martinez confirmed in his pregame Zoom call on Monday afternoon. “He threw 32 pitches, no complaints after, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but he threw the ball well, the ball came out fairly well and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

Yes, it is only a few days after he felt discomfort again, but as Martinez explained, Strasburg was out throwing and felt better, so they decided to test it in an attempt to avoid having the latest issues set back all the work they’d done to build him back up.

“He was playing long-toss again, and he felt a lot better,” the Nats’ skipper said.

“The pain subsided so we got him back on the mound and kind of got him back quickly just so we don’t lose what he’s already gained, but let’s see how he feels tomorrow.”

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Talking to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies a few weeks after Strasburg landed on the IL for the second time this season, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said it was the same issue that led to a stint on the Injured List for the ‘09 No. 1 overall pick in 2018.

“It’s the same thing he had in 2018 where he had the nerve from his neck — that goes down to his shoulder and arm — was irritated,” Rizzo told The Sports Junkies.

“He has seen Dr. [Neal] ElAttrache out in L.A. to get a diagnosis. We’ve got that. We’re sending him to a specialist in Dallas.

“So he’s in the midst of... we’re getting information gathering, trying to figure out how to stop this thing so it doesn’t keep reoccurring.”

So over the last month, and after Strasburg felt discomfort again last week, have they tried to change anything with his mechanics, or training program, to focus on the issue, and try to avoid having it happen again?

“[Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey has talked to him a lot and we’re trying to get him to stay on his legs a lot better,” Martinez said, “... instead of coming up and out, so today, like I said, today, he threw the ball, he was on his legs, he didn’t have that hard fall that he typically has, everything was more fluid, and he looked good. And he was throwing the ball in the bullpen at 92-93, so that’s a great indication that everything is behind — behind so that when his arm comes through, he’s got something behind it.

“His ball had a lot of carry today, which was great, so like I said, now it just depends how he feels tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”

Hair is Fire; Also Hair on Fire:

“This guy plays 100 mph with his hair on fire,” GM Mike Rizzo told reporters after the club selected Andrew Stevenson with the 58th overall pick in the 2nd Round of the 2015 Draft.

While he’s always played like his hair is on fire, Stevenson is currently rocking some sort of blond mullet-ish thing that is straight fire as the kids say. [ed. note - “Nobody says that.”]

So, with the hair as magnificent as it is, someone had to inevitably ask Davey Martinez for his take on Stevenson’s lettuce.

“He definitely brings back the 80s or late 70s for sure,” Martinez said after a long laugh at the question.

Does Stevenson, who returned as the 27th man on Sunday, and was officially recalled from Triple-A Rochester before last night’s game after an IL stint for an oblique issue, get ribbed by his teammates for rocking that hair?

Milwaukee Brewers v Washington Nationals Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

“He hasn’t gotten much grief, you know. Back in our day we’d give guys a lot of grief, but guys seem to kind of look at him as Goldilocks, honestly,” Martinez said.

Stevenson got the start in center on Monday, with Victor Robles sitting out.

“We’re going to play [Stevenson],” Martinez said, now that he’s back in the majors.

“We’ll see how things go,” the manager added.

“It’s going to be a matchup thing with Andrew. I know he’s swinging the bat well when he went down for rehab, so he’s getting an opportunity to play again today.”

It was the second game in a row that Robles didn’t start. Is something going on there?

“That’s just — I just want to get — you know these guys [the Marlins] got a bullpen game today,” Martinez said before the opener with the Fish in D.C.

“So I kept the lineup the same as we did yesterday, I thought we hit the ball well, so he’s available to play today.”

More Bell in Left Talk:

Josh Bell was out on the field again, taking fly balls before the first of three with the Marlins as the Nationals continue to try him out there to see how he handles the spot in case they even need to play him out there, or want to in order to get his and Ryan Zimmerman’s bats in a game, as Martinez explained.

MASN’s Mark Zuckerman captured one of the drills Bell was doing:

So what were Bell and the Nationals’ coaches working on this time out?

“We’re working on his footwork,” Martinez said. “We’re working on him going back on balls, in on balls, we shot him some line drives today so he can get used to seeing the stadium, balls coming out of the stadium, some fly balls, we turned him around so he was facing the outfield fence, just so he can try to emulate the twilight, where the ball goes up and you’ve got to take your eye off the ball and you’ve got to look up and try to find the ball, so we worked on that today.

“He’s getting better out there, he really is, and he’s starting to have a little bit of fun with it as well, so he puts in the work, that’s for sure, he comes in, he’s diligent about what he does.

“He’s done it before, obviously, but we’re going to continue to work at it.”

Martinez, (a former major league outfielder, who helped coach up outfielders in his previous gigs as an instructor and then as a coach in the majors, working with, among others, Kyle Schwarber in Chicago when the catcher-turned-outfielder came up with the Cubs), did go out and talk with Bell during the drills on Monday, so what did he tell him?

“I was talking about him — two things for me that always help everybody: One, you don’t backpedal on balls ever, you stay square to the ball. Two, is on line drives, these little things, nuances that I’ve learned over the years, one of them being if a line drive is hit right at you and you can see the top half of the baseball, the ball is going to be in front of you, if you can’t see and you see the bottom half of the baseball, then you need to go ahead and start working your way back because the ball is going to be over your head.

“Showed him how to do that and he said it helped him out a lot on his first step.”