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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Starlin Castro not returning to Nationals; Joe Ross & Stephen Strasburg updates...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Tuesday...

Third Base In D.C.:

Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked to reporters on Tuesday afternoon about what the future holds with the trade deadline approaching, and he also addressed the domestic violence allegations against Starlin Castro which MLB is currently investigating as Castro is on administrative leave.

Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked about the situation last week, and he was asked at the time if he thought Castro could return to the team if he was cleared of the charges.

“When that process is done, that will be another conversation,” the fourth-year skipper said.

“But for right now, until he goes through that process, I really have nothing to say to him or anybody about it.”

Rizzo, in his usual direct manner, said yesterday that he doesn’t see Castro returning to the team.

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

“I am not planning on having Starlin Castro back,” Rizzo said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. He also took responsibility for signing Castro, explaining that while they did their due diligence on the player, who was cleared of assault allegations while playing in Chicago, they clearly weren’t thorough enough.

“We do pride ourselves - you’ve heard me say it a million times - that you read about our guys in the sports section and not the other sections,” Rizzo said. “And this time we failed. I’m responsible for the players that I put on our roster and on the field, and we did a lot of due diligence, specifically with this player, because of his past, and because we had a lot of inside information on him because he played for some of our coaches and that type of thing. So going into it, when we signed him, I felt comfortable with it.”

Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison have played third base with Castro away from the team, and Martinez said earlier this week that while the club likes the options they have now, he wasn’t ruling out the possibility of bringing in some help.

“Mercer can play third, [Alcides] Escobar has played some third, and also J-Hay has played some third base, and those three guys are very much qualified to play over there,” Martinez explained. “Like I said, I know Mike [Rizzo] and I will have some discussions moving forward and see what we can do, but I feel comfortable putting any one of those three guys at third base.”

After last night’s game, Martinez cosigned Rizzo’s comments about Castro not returning to the team.

“Yeah, I mean, I agree,” the manager explained. “Like I said, for me that’s something that’s unacceptable, it really is. And it’s awful. I hate to repeat myself, but it’s awful. And we just got to — like I said, we just got to move on.

“MLB is going to go through the process, but we need to focus on what we need to do and that’s to win ballgames.”

Rotation Talk - Joe Ross and Stephen Strasburg Updates:

There was some good news on Joe Ross (right elbow inflammation) in Martinez’s pregame Zoom call on Tuesday afternoon, with the manager announcing that the 28-year-old right-hander, who landed on the IL back on July 9th, will throw a bullpen today as he works his way back to the Nationals’ rotation.

“He’s throwing a bullpen tomorrow,” Martinez said. “We’ll see how he feels after the bullpen, [and the hope] is that he’s feeling better.

“He’s definitely feeling better, he’s been playing long-toss, we’ll see how he feels after his bullpen tomorrow.”

Would Ross, who hasn’t pitched in a game since July 4th, need rehab starts at this point, or would sim games suffice before he is back in the big leagues?

Los Angeles Dodgers v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“We’ll have a conversation tomorrow,” Martinez said, “... but if we feel like he’s throwing the ball good, his mechanics are good, it’s possible he might be able to, but that’s all — it’s going to be all based on conversation and how he feels, and honestly what he feels the next step should be. Whether he wants to face hitters, before he goes out there and takes the mound, or he wants to go on a rehab assignment.”

Meanwhile, Martinez announced on Monday that after they stepped back with the ramp up of Stephen Strasburg’s rehab from a neck strain which landed him on the IL for the second time this season back on June 2nd, the right-hander threw a bullpen after feeling better as he long-tossed.

Strasburg threw a 32-pitch bullpen, and didn’t have any issues, but as always, Martinez said, it would be more about how he recovered after throwing, so the fact that he was out on the field long-tossing again on Tuesday seemed like a good sign.

“Yes, definitely a good sign,” Martinez said.

“I talked to him earlier today, he said he felt nothing, there [were] no issues, he wanted to go out today and play an extensive long-toss and you’re seeing that now.

“Hopefully, he comes out of today feeling good again, and then we’ll get him back on the mound probably either Thursday of Friday.

“I know we have a day off Thursday, but we’re all here and if he wants to throw on Thursday, which I know he does, we’ll be here for him and watch him throw a bullpen.”

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

A reported noted that he’d seen someone filming Strasburg as he threw the other day, and the manager said it was part of the club’s process of trying to figure out what’s causing the nerve issue in his neck that has kept him off the mound in game action.

“We’re trying to hone in on why he feels the pain or the discomfort in his neck,” Martinez explained, “if he does something different while he’s playing long-toss or on flat ground, as opposed to being on the mound, so I just wanted to get [Assistant, Major League Video/Technology] Kenny [Diaz] to — every time he throws kind of film him and see what his arm action is doing. See what his body is doing, so that when goes on the mound we can actually break everything down, and see if there is anything different from what his arm is doing.

“Yesterday, a couple days ago, I felt like his bullpen was really good, and he threw the ball well, and so we’ll build from that.”

Avila Squatting In Bullpen:

Bilateral calf strains landed Alex Avila on the 10-Day IL back on July 3rd, but the veteran catcher took a step towards returning on Tuesday, when he caught some pitches in the bullpen for the first time since the injury/injuries.

“Yeah, his first time,” Martinez said.

Tampa Bay Rays v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“We’re able to get him back and catch a bullpen. And we’ll see how he feels afterwards. I mean, he’s feeling better, and like I said, he’s progressing, but these calf things, you never know. It’s a tough muscle to heal, so hopefully he’ll get better each day, and we’ll get him out there as soon as possible.”

The first test, Martinez, said, was getting Avila back into the squat for a prolonged period of time to test the calves.

“He’s going to squat down,” Martinez said. “He’ll get up in-between some pitches, but right now it’s just getting him down, getting him back used to squatting. Because you squat for nine innings, and if you haven’t done it for a while, it’s grueling, so he’ll start squatting, get back in shape, catching shape, and then we’ll go from there.”