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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Stephen Strasburg throwing another bullpen; Nats’ 2nd half offense + more...

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Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Wednesday afternoon...

Strasbuild Update:

While they slowed things down with Stephen Strasburg (neck strain) when he felt a bit of discomfort in his neck last week, Davey Martinez said on Monday that the 32-year-old got on the mound in the bullpen after feeling better after long-tossing, and threw around 32 pitches, then on Tuesday, the Washington Nationals’ right-hander went out and did some more long-tossing, which was a good sign he’d gotten through the bullpen well.

On Wednesday afternoon, Strasburg was back in the bullpen throwing again as he builds up towards a return to the majors for the first time since early June.

“Stephen threw a bullpen again today,” Martinez confirmed in his pregame Zoom call with reporters.

“He threw 27 pitches, but he mixed all his pitches in, we’re waiting to hear — I’m waiting to hear from him now and see how he felt.

Washington Nationals Workout Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

“But I talked to [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey and he said he threw the ball well, said he felt good, so I’m waiting to hear back from the trainers.”

Martinez said he hadn’t had a chance to look at all the data coming out of the bullpen, but the initial reports on Strasburg’s progress were promising.

“I’ll look at all the numbers here in a little bit,” he said, “but according to Hickey, the ball was coming out good, so, and he said the breaking ball was good, changeup was good, so like I said, for me it’s always how he feels after he completes the day, and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

Where Soto Goes ... 2nd Half Surge:

With a 3-2 record five games into the so-called second half of the 2021 campaign going into last night’s series finale with the Miami Marlins in the nation’s capital, Davey Martinez’s club had a .357 AVG out of the break, which was the best in the majors over the admittedly small sample size, with a .431 OBP (also tops) and .659 SLG (No. 1 as well). With an average of 8.8 runs per game in that stretch, (over which they allowed an average of 9.0, with 24 in one 24-8 loss to the San Diego Padres), the Nationals had the most runs scored as well, and their 13 home runs as a team were tied for the most in the majors (with 5 of the 13 off of Juan Soto’s bat).

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

“The guys are swinging the bat well,” Martinez said when asked about the offensive surge in the early days of the home stretch. “We’ve had some really good at bats as of late, with two strikes, which is always encouraging as well.

“These guys understand,” the manager continued. “I’ve always said, hitting sometimes comes and goes and sometimes it’s contagious. And when you get a few guys that are really hitting the ball well, it carries over, and right now you’re seeing that.

“All these guys are starting to swing the bat well, they’re coming together at a great moment, so hopefully we continue to do that.”

So, of course, the Nats scored just one run on six hits in a 3-1 loss to the Marlins last night, going 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position in a game that went into extras tied, 1-1.

Barrera 4 Life!:

Tres Barrera’s work at the plate, and behind it, has made the absences of both Yan Gomes (oblique strain) and Alex Avila (bilateral calf strains) a little more tolerable, but both veteran catchers are working hard to get back in the lineup.

“They’re progressing,” Martinez said on Wednesday, providing updates on both of the Nats’ injured backstops.

San Diego Padres v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“Yan, he caught a little bit, he threw yesterday, the biggest hurdle now we have with him is the hitting portion, so he still hasn’t been able to do that. Hopefully he’ll start swinging the bat here soon, but he’s doing well.

“Alex, same thing, we’re just trying to get over the hurdle of him running. It’s been kind of slow.

“Like I said before, with these calf injuries, you just never know how long it’s going to take.

“So, hopefully he’ll continue to progress and we’ll get him out on the field and get him running and he can do all baseball activity before we get him in a game.”