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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Victor Robles & Andrew Stevenson in center; Joe Ross + more...

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

Center Field Platoon-ish:

Andrew Stevenson got the fourth start in five games in center field in the series opener in Oriole Park at Camden Yards last night, so reporters asked before the game if there was a platoon in center field now, with the left-handed hitting Stevenson starting again over the everyday center fielder for most of this season, Victor Robles, with the O’s right-handed starter, Jorge López, on the mound.

Martinez has been giving Stevenson regular at bats since he returned from an IL stint for an oblique strain, and a rehab stint at Triple-A Rochester, and he said he’s liked Stevenson’s at-bats since he came back.

“Andrew went down,” Martinez explained, “... he worked to get back, he was swinging the bat well when he was down in Rochester, so we got him back up here, and I want to give him an opportunity to play against righties, and put Victor in against lefties.

“Right now, it just seemed to work that way, it’s not going to be a straight platoon, I mean, there’s some right-handed pitchers that I like righties, right-handed batters against, but I talked to Victor about it, but we want to try to get Victor right.

MLB: JUN 02 Nationals at Braves Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“I know he’s working every day with [Hitting Coach Kevin Long]. He’s hitting early, he’s doing a bunch of different things. We need to get him going.”

So far in July, Robles, 24, is 5 for 39 (.128/.244/.205) with three doubles, two walks, and 13 Ks in 14 games and 45 plate appearances, taking him from .225/.342/.321 on June 30th to .208/.326/.301 overall on the year, with a .218/.312/.315 line vs RHPs and .180/.359/.262 line vs LHPs on the year.

“He’s had a trend of hitting lefties a lot better,” Martinez said of Robles, who has put up a .252/.364/.378 line against lefties in his career (vs a .236/.305/.385 line vs RHPs).

“But like I said, there will be some matchups against right-handed pitchers that I like [Robles] on, that he’ll play.

“Obviously his defense is — he’s one of the best out in center field. So, when he’s not playing we miss a little bit of that defense. I do want to get him out there and playing, not by any means do we feel like we’re giving up on him. And I’ve talked to him about that. For me, he’s still the future here, but he’s struggled as of late and we want to get him back, we want to get him swinging back and when he starts hitting the ball hard again, and I’m not talking about getting hits, I’m just talking about making contact and hitting the ball hard, then we’ll get him back in there regularly.”

And What About Behind The Plate?:

René Rivera was signed before the start of the second-half of the 2021 campaign, and the veteran backstop started the first two games out of the All-Star break, but with 26-year-old backstop Tres Barrera swinging a hot bat and handling the staff well, Davey Martinez keeps running him out there will both Yan Gomes and Alex Avila work their way back from the IL.

Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

“He’s playing well,” Martinez said of Barrera, after penciling him in again last night against the Orioles, “... and the biggest thing, like I’ve said, he’s handling our pitching staff well, he’s calling a good game, so he’s done well back there, so he’s getting an opportunity to play.”

Bell & Zim Both In Lineup, Zim as DH:

Davey Martinez and the Nationals have been working Josh Bell out in left in the hope that if he gets comfortable out there they can have his and Ryan Zimmerman’s bats in the lineup at the same time while the club waits for Kyle Schwarber to return from a hamstring injury that landed him on the IL.

But with this weekend’s series in an AL park, Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Nats’ skipper was able to get them both of them in there, but with Zimmerman as the DH and Bell as his first baseman.

In explaining that decision, Martinez said that while he might have gone with Zim at first as the better defender, Bell’s done well enough over there that he played him at first base and kept Zimmerman as the designated hitter.

Washington Nationals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“Yeah, [Bell is] playing well, he really is,” Martinez said. “His defense has been really, really, really good. It’s an opportunity to get him back out there, keep him out there and let Zim DH. The other thing is that Zim — because he’s been a role player this year, that he can play and DH and sit for two innings, three innings, whatever, and get himself going again, whereas I think Bell, because he’s so used to playing the field, and coming back in, more regularly, it’s a little bit tougher for him just to sit around and DH and expect him to have those quality at bats, so I just want to keep him in there. And I talked to both of them about it and Zim’s okay with it, and like I said, Bell is doing so well at first base that we can leave him in there.”

The DH spot gives him an opportunity to get Zimmerman going after the 36-year-old vet has struggled at the plate in recent weeks following a hot start this season.

“Giving him four at bats can definitely help him,” Martinez said. “Especially guys that come off the bench like that and just get one pinch hit here and there. Giving him four quality at bats is definitely going to help.

“He’s going to play this whole weekend, him and Bell both, so hopefully these at bats will help him and he’ll get going again.”

“Yeah, I mean, like I’ve said all year I know what I signed up for,” Ryan Zimmerman said after going 0 for 3 with a walk and three Ks in the 6-1 loss. “I understand I’m not going to be able to get consistent at bats all the time.”

But getting multiple at bats a game this weekend, he said, could definitely help.

“Is it easier to get into a rhythm, yeah, of course, I think getting those 3-4-5 at bats a game for a few days in a row really helps, instead of getting a pinch hit against a tough guy, or maybe going 3-4 days without getting a pinch hit, but you know, like I said, that’s what I signed up for, I understand the job and the role that I’m supposed to play, and unfortunately lately it hasn’t worked out, but I don’t feel bad up there, so I think that’s a good thing, just got to keep going, and you guys know, I get hot and I’m a streaky hitter, and I think tonight I had good at bats, I just didn’t really have much to show for it.”

Joe Ross Still Building:

Joe Ross went on the 10-Day IL on July 8th, with right elbow inflammation, and he had some discomfort again as he was nearing a return to the rotation last week. So where’s he at right now?

Ross got back on the mound earlier this week and threw a bullpen session, and according to Martinez on Friday, he was set to throw another bullpen when he felt good following the previous one.

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

“He’s throwing another one, a lighter one here today,” Martinez said on Friday afternoon.

“I’m going to go out and watch him after we’re done. We’ll see how he is and see how he feels after this one today.”

So if all goes well this time, what would be the next step? Sim game? Rehab assignment? Other?

“I believe, after talking to him after his last bullpen,” Martinez said, “if this one goes well, in theory, he probably could just go back out and hop right back into the rotation.”

How did it go?

“Joe felt really good,” the manager said in last night’s post game Zoom call. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and then we’ll go from there.”