More Rainey Days In Rochester:
Tanner Rainey is still considered a potential closer of the future in D.C. in spite of his struggles with injuries and retiring batters this season.
Rainey, though healthy, after an IL stint for a stress reaction in his right tibia, was optioned to Triple-A Rochester earlier this month to get sorted out, after he missed over a month on the Injured List, in a less-pressure-filled environment where he could pitch every other day regardless of game circumstances.
“I just want him to go down and just focus on just throwing strikes, getting his mechanics back,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez explained.
“Instead of keeping him up here and just kind of trying to use him in high-leverage situations, I explained to him he’s going to go down there and pitch every other day.
“He was hurt,” the manager added. “He’s been hurt throughout this year, and just get down there, because I explained to him — in the future, that him and [Kyle] Finnegan are going to close out games for us. And I want him just to hone in on his mechanics and pump strikes.”
Rainey was called up as the 27th man for the Nationals’ doubleheader with the Mets in Citi Field on Thursday, but he was optioned back at the end of the day. What’s the plan for the hard-throwing reliever going forward?
“We had planned — you know, he’s only been going every other day, and the plan was to get him now to try to go back-to-back days, continue to build him up,” Martinez said before last night’s planned series opener with Atlanta in the nation’s capital.
“I thought he threw the ball well yesterday, but we need him to go back-to-back days, like I said before, the future for him is to pitch at the back end of the bullpen, whether it’s to close or to set up, something of that nature, but I want to make sure that he can go back-to-back days.”
Martinez was asked if, at this point, Rainey is healthy, and fine-tuning/sorting things out, or if he’s rehabbing from the latest of several injury issues which have plagued him this season.
“I view this as both,” the manager said, “build him up, this year has been a tough one as far as injuries are concerned with him, so we just want to build him up, get him ready and then when he comes back it is to pitch either in the eighth — between him and Finnegan — either in the eighth or the ninth inning, or vice versa. So, we just want to get him, like I said, we just want to get him back down there, and get him back-to-back days, and get him built up and then bring him back up.”
It’s Different Now:
Things have not gone great since the Nationals’ fire sale at the trade deadline, and for their skipper, Davey Martinez, the job description in D.C. is markedly different with the roster the team is fielding these days, after trading away eight players from the big league club. It’s a younger, less-experienced team now, and as Martinez said in New York, (where the club got swept in three straight), there are going to be bumps and bruises along the way, and he will be doing a lot of teaching going forward.
How have things changed for the fourth-year skipper?
“It comes with a lot more patience,” Martinez explained on Friday afternoon. “I tend to have a lot more patience. I love having conversations, I’ve had a lot more conversations, a lot more teaching, a lot more just watching the little things, talking about the little things.”
Martinez is not questioning the effort, but the team the Nationals have now has lost 10 of 13 since the trade deadline, and 9 of their last 10. They are fighting though.
“As you can tell, these guys are playing really hard, and I’m proud of the way they’re playing, now we just got to finish, we’ve got to finish the games,” he said.
“We’ve been in almost every game since the change, and like I said, they’re been playing hard.”
“The change” does sound better than “since the reboot” or “since the fire sale”, we’ll give him that, and it does seem like the Nationals have been in a lot of games, with one pitch or one play making the difference and eventually dooming them over this stretch.
“Now we got to get over to get it to where we can win at the end of the games,” Martinez continued.
“And I think it’s going to translate and it’s going to come. These guys are working hard.
“We’re pushing them, we’re pushing them behind closed doors, like I said, we’re having tons of conversations, understand what it takes to win up and in the majors, and also try to remember, we’re still developing guys. You know, you talk about Carter [Kieboom], Carter has only had two years at third base, so he’s still learning the position.
“We’re talking about Mason Thompson, who was a starter for most of his career and started pitching out of the bullpen. Try developing him into a back-end of the bullpen guy, because we feel like he can do it, but it takes time ... but what I’m seeing, and what I’m learning about these guys, they’re willing to put in the work, they’re willing to listen, they’re willing to communicate and talk back when they have a question, so it’s been great.”
Bell In August:
Coming off a solid .287/.333/.552, three-double, six-home run month of July, which followed a .282/.363/.521, five-double, four-home run June, and .264/.312/.483, four-double, five-HR May, (and a rough .113/.200/.264, two-double, two-home run April), Josh Bell has struggled at the plate so far in August, with a .200/.273/.375 line, a double, and two homers over the first 11 games and 44 plate appearances before last night’s game.
Bell, 28, put in a lot of hard work and he turned his season around, after a COVID-IL stint before Opening Day slowed his roll coming out of Spring Training.
But that work, of course, never ends.
Bell’s manager, Davey Martinez, was asked before Friday’s series opener with the Braves in D.C. what he’s seen from Bell in the last few weeks.
”I watched him in the cage hit today a little bit,” Martinez said. “We got to get him back in on his legs, left-handed. He’s coming up a little bit, so I watched him a little bit in the cage, just get back on his legs, get set up a little bit earlier, and not try to do too much.”
The former major league outfielder-turned-coach-and-eventually-manager offered some additional details on what’s going on with Bell’s swing right now that’s led to the slump.
“He gets out front a little bit too early,” Martinez explained, “as you can see — the balls away he can’t stay on, he’s swinging at a lot of pitches out of the zone because of that reason, so if he stays on his legs a little bit and gets back earlier, he’s able to drive those balls like he was before.”
Bell went 0 for 3 with a sac fly in last night’s loss...