Bell In The Outfield?:
Josh Bell has played a total of 16 games in the outfield, all in right, in his six-year big league career, all of them back in 2016, in his rookie year with the Pittsburgh Pirates who’d drafted and developed him.
According to his current manager, Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez, we might see the first baseman in the nation’s capital back in the outfield at some point in the future.
It came up when Martinez was asked about the fact that he’s started Bell against some left-handed starters recently, whereas Ryan Zimmerman was getting those starts earlier in the 2021 campaign.
Bell, 28, has put up a .333/.419/.593 line with two doubles and four home runs over the last 17 games. Zimmerman, 36, has slowed some at the plate, after a hot start to his 16th major league season, going 6 for 37 (.156/.182/.250) with a home run over his last 17 games going back to June 15th.
“[Zimmerman is] still — for me he’s still hitting the ball well, has been unlucky, but you know he’s definitely going to be getting opportunities to play,” Martinez said on Wednesday, in his pregame Zoom call with reporters.
“Just Bell has been swinging the bat well. It’s hard to take him out when he had three hits the other day. He’s getting an opportunity to play. Yesterday he lined out a bunch of times, so he’s getting an opportunity to play today. Actually, it would be nice if I could get them both in the lineup together, so you might see Josh Bell playing a little bit of left field. He’s been getting some work out there, he’s done it before, so who knows.
“We’re going to try to be creative, try to get the best lineup we can out there, but we’ll see what happens.”
How did the possibility of Bell in the outfield become a topic of discussion?
“Just to get those two big bats in our lineup,” Martinez said. “You know, I’m not really set in stone on it yet, but he has been working out there, I talked to him about it, he was all for it, so we’ll see what happens here in the future. But it’s not going to be nothing that’s going to happen here in the next day or two, but I want him to get out there and get some fly balls. And just in case we’re in a pinch, it’s nice to know that we can stick him out there.”
Rehab Notes: Stevenson, Schwarber + more:
The Triple-A Rochester Reds Wings posted a lineup last night that featured Nats’ outfielder Andrew Stevenson leading off, as he works his way back from an oblique tweak which put him on the 10-Day Injured List back on June 18th (retroactive to 6/17).
Stevenson went 2 for 3 with a walk in the game, his third since starting a rehab assignment on July 4th. Martinez said the outfielder is getting close to returning to the majors.
“We’re going to build him up, but he’s actually doing well, he’s pain free, I just want him to get out in the outfield and just play the game,” Martinez said, “... and continue to get some at bats, and try to get him going, use this opportunity to get as many at bats as we possibly can before we bring him back.”
And how about Kyle Schwarber, the Nationals’ other injured outfielder?
Opposing pitchers could not stop Schwarber in June, as he hit 16 home runs over 21 games in a sustained stretch of slugging that was super-impressive. He’s been on the 10-Day IL since July 2nd, and though he was named an All-Star, he won’t play in the 2021 Midsummer Classic, but Martinez said he was making slow progress from the hamstring injury which put him on the Injured List.
“He’s actually, he started riding the bike and he’s progressing,” the manager said.
“Like I said, really right now there’s no timetable, and as you know he wants to get back as soon as possible, so he’s progressing though, and that’s all we can ask.”
And what will he ask of his injured outfielders over the All-Star break? Does he want them to keep plugging away, or actually take a little break?
“These guys, I want them to take their break,” he said. “A lot of guys, the pitchers will throw every other day, I told the position players the biggest thing is to do some kind of cardio and stretching, if they want, hit off the tee a little bit, but I want these guys to rest. We’ve got a big second half coming up and I want these guys to be ready to go.”
That Defense Though:
Trea Turner and Alcides Escobar put on quite a show defensively in Tuesday night’s loss to the San Diego Padres in Petco Park, and Victor Robles showed off his range and his arm in the losing effort.
Asked about Turner and Escobar up the middle first, and if what we saw in the second of four for the Nationals in the Padres’ home were the benefits of having two shortstops out there in the middle infield, Martinez said he’s liked what he’s seen.
“They’ve been really good,” the Nats’ skipper said. “I think you’re seeing Trea now, he got a couple days off and you’re seeing his legs underneath him a little bit and he’s playing really good out there now, and Alcides since we got him, he’s been really good. And I’ve always said pitching and defense wins a lot of games and these guys, our defense has been really good.”
The Nationals struggled as a team defensively in 2020’s 60-game campaign, and it was a big focus this spring, so Martinez said he’s not particular surprised how improved his club has been defensively in the first-half this year.
“I mean, we worked on it, it was an emphasis going into Spring Training this year, and we really, really worked on it a lot and these guys are playing well. I’m not surprised at all.”
Robles, who struggled at the plate and in center field last season, has improved with the glove this year, while still figuring things out offensively, but as Martinez said recently, as long his center fielder continues to play a solid center, he’ll stay in the lineup as he tries sorting things out at the plate.
Does Robles still manage to surprise his manager with what he can do with the glove on his hand?
“Just his all-around [game],” is impressive, Martinez said.
“Him throwing the ball, his arm, his speed, the way he closes ground. Everything. He’s really good out there and he’s been playing well out there as well.”