Ross-Less Rotation Plans:
Davey Martinez announced at the start of Sunday’s pregame press conference that an MRI on Joe Ross’s right elbow revealed a partial tear of the UCL, though he cautioned that it is not a guarantee that he’ll need a second Tommy John surgery after undergoing a first one back in 2017.
“I just want you guys to be clear,” Martinez told reporters, “that this is — we don’t know the end result, he’s going to go see Dr. [Keith] Meister, this doesn’t mean right now that he’s going to have Tommy John surgery. We wanted to make sure that he goes to see the doctor that did his first surgery, then get the results, and then after that we’ll determine what kind of treatment or prognosis will happen.”
The Nationals will be without Ross, however, that much is clear, so Martinez was asked what the immediate plans are for the rotation, which is already depleted with Max Scherzer dealt, Stephen Strasburg out after surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, and Patrick Corbin still in a season-long (or two-year really) funk.
According to the manager, the schedule in the next week (with off-days today/Thursday) will allow them to put off a decision for now.
“Because we have so many days off, I talked to [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey already, I mean, these guys are still pitching on their regular rest. Some guys will have an extra day because of the days off, and then we’ll go from there. Right now we’re covered as far as being able to sustain what we’re doing for the next week, and then after that we’ll have to add somebody to the rotation.
“It could be Sean Nolin, which more than likely I think that’s who it’s going to be, but for right now, these guys are still going to fit into their spot.”
Lester Return In D.C. Now:
Just before the July 30th trade deadline, the Nationals traded veteran lefty Jon Lester to the St. Louis Cardinals in return for 25-year-old outfielder Lane Thomas, who debuted in the big leagues in 2019, with a .316/.409/.684 line in 34 games and 44 plate appearances, but dealt with injury and health (COVID) issues over the last couple years, and finished his time in the Cards’ lineup with a .172/.289/.336 line, three doubles, and five home runs in 84 games and 142 PAs.
Thomas was 5 for 13 with a double and a home run over three games at Triple-A Rochester in the Nationals’ system before he was called up on Sunday, and quickly penciled into their lineup as the starting left field and Davey Martinez’s No. 2 hitter against the Atlanta Braves.
“He’s here, he’s in the lineup today,” Martinez said before the game. “He’ll be playing left field. I want to give him an opportunity to play, especially against left-handers.
“I want to see him play. We had him up here — he traveled with us. I kind of like his swing.
“I like the way he goes about — his work ethic was great, so we’re going to give him an opportunity to play some here in this next month.”
Asked for the scouting report he got on Thomas’s brief time in Rochester, Martinez obliged.
“He sprays the ball around, hits the ball to right-center, left-center, moves the baseball, he can play left field, center field, right field, just a good all-around player,” the manager said.
“He’s got some speed, but we like the way he swings the bat. He was doing well in Triple-A, he came over he was doing well down there, so we’re going to give him an opportunity to play.”
In his first game with Nationals on Sunday, Thomas went 2 for 4 with a walk.
Robles At The Plate:
Victor Robles went into Sunday’s game on a nice run at the plate, with 10 hits, four doubles, and a home run in his previous 10 games, which was as many hits, doubles, and homers as he’d hit in the 29 games that preceded his recent stretch of success with a bat in his hands.
Were there any adjustments that he made, or anything that his manager saw him doing a bit differently in recent games?
“Yeah, he’s being aggressive in the strike zone, as you can see he’s swinging at a lot more pitches early in the count, and he’s putting the ball in play,” Martinez said.
“Typically, when you see Victor, he has a good swing they were usually getting fouled back, now he’s putting the ball in play a lot more, and we talked to him a lot about usage of his bunting for hits, when to do it, when not to do it, yesterday you saw him lay down a bunt first pitch to get on base for a beautiful hit. The other thing is, is that he’s not chasing, he’s working counts, he’s not chasing a whole lot.
“Now with that being said, a lot of times with two strikes, you become defensive, and he’s still chasing some balls outside the zone, so we’re trying to get him with two strikes to continue to stay in the zone, not be overly-aggressive, but stay in the zone, and just move the baseball with two strikes.”
And just because we were interested, we asked the manager if he talked to Robles about that line drive by Ozzie Albies that got over the center fielder’s head in center in Saturday’s game.
That’s really not the sort of thing you see from Robles too often, so what did he say if they did actually discuss it?
“He misread it,” Martinez said. “He didn’t think it was hit as hard as it was ... and it was hit hard.”