Forced to play catch Alex Avila at second base on Thursday with both Trea Turner and Jordy Mercer injured in Wednesday afternoon’s game, and with injuries throughout multiple levels of their minor league system limiting their infield options, Washington’s Nationals had to do something before the second game of four this weekend with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the nation’s capital.
“We’re working through some stuff. Hopefully something will work out for us, but we’ve got a lot of decisions to make tonight,” Martinez told reporters after a rain-shortened loss to LA on Thursday.
With Turner, Mercer, Carter Kieboom, Luis García, Adrían Sanchez, and Jackson Cluff all in some way injured, the manager was asked if the answer would have to come from outside the organization.
“We’re looking at some other options inside as well,” he said. “We’re just — we’re searching, so ... hopefully Trea comes back tomorrow and feels a little bit better. I know Mercer is going to get an MRI tomorrow and we’ll see where he’s at, but we’re going to try to get somebody here that can play the middle of the field.”
Humberto Arteaga was that someone.
Arteaga, 27, who signed with the club this past winter, after 10 seasons in the Kansas City Royals’ organization, put up a .227/.267/.309 line with three doubles and two homers in 29 games and 116 plate appearances between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Rochester in the Nationals’ system before he got the call.
He debuted in the majors with the Royals in 2019, but hadn’t played in the majors since.
“Trea is still day-to-day, he feels better today. But he’s going to continue to get treatment, see how he feels later on, and see if he gets any better,” Martinez explained before Friday night’s game with the Dodgers.
“With Jordy, he was about 75-80%, and for me it’s a risky thing when it come to a quad, so we decided to put him on the IL, get him healthy, called up Humberto Arteaga, who’s got some big league time.
“He was with Kansas City, good player, he can play all three infield positions, but he’s going to start at shortstop for us today.”
Turner tested the finger he jammed sliding into third for his cycle-completing triple in Wednesday’s game, but decided he couldn’t go, sitting out his second straight game.
“I asked him how he felt today, he said he’s going to play catch and see how he feels, but he says he feels better,” Martinez said. “That’s the first thing he really did today, now he’s going to go back and get a bunch of treatment on it and the biggest thing is the swelling, it’s still pretty swollen, so we’ve got to get that swelling down.”
Was Arteaga simply the next man up on the organizational depth chart below all the injured players mentioned above?
“We needed someone right away, so he was the guy,” Martinez explained. “He’s playing — like I said, he can help us play multiple positions, but he’s played shortstop and he’s done well, so we need him, and he was right here in Triple-A with us so we brought him up.”
With the injuries piling up, the skipper said, they were doing their best to field a team that can compete every day, and that was before Kyle Schwarber injured his hamstring early in Friday night’s game.
“Right now you’ve got to weave and bob and trust the rest of the players to go out there and do their job,” Martinez said before what ended up a 10-4 loss to the Dodgers.
“And that’s all we can do. We’ll put things together. We feel like we can compete today, and that’s basically the bottom line.”
That’s not all they can do, apparently, because Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty had sources tell him the Nationals were working to bring in more help even as Arteaga debuted with the club on Friday night:
Sources: The Nationals are in the process of acquiring veteran shortstop Alcides Escobar from the Royals. Escobar is on his way to Washington with the team needing middle infield help. The 34-year-old last played in the majors in 2018.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) July 2, 2021
Martinez was asked after the game if the Schwarber injury would force them to bring up an outfielder as well.
“We’re going to wait, he’s getting [an MRI] early in the morning, so we’ll wait and see what happens. You’ve always got to think positive, you know.”