Riding Riley Adams To The Moon:
Playing against his former team this week in Nationals Park, new Nats’ catcher Riley Adams went 5 for 7 with two doubles and a home run in a quick, two-game sweep for Washington, against the Toronto Blue Jays who dealt the catcher to D.C. in return for Brad Hand at the July 30th trade deadline.
Those two games were the second and third straight starts for the 25-year-old backstop, and in the three consecutive games he was 6 for 11, and 9 for 26 (.346/.433/.654) with a couple doubles and a couple home runs in 12 games and 30 plate appearances in which he’s walked twice and struck out eight times.
Adams’ manager, Davey Martinez, penciled him in for a fourth straight start in the series opener with the Brewers last night in American Family Field.
A reporter wondered if the Nationals’ other catcher, Tres Barrera, was healthy, since Adams was getting four straight starts.
“Tres is fine. Tres will probably play tomorrow,” Martinez said in his pregame Zoom call with reporters on Friday. “I want Riley — he’s swinging the bat well, I want him to continue to play. He’s catching well. I just want to see him play a little bit, he’s had some good at bats for us as of late, so with a day off [on Thursday], he’s getting an opportunity to play again today.”
Adams talked earlier this week about having a bit of motivation going up against the club that drafted him in the 3rd Round in 2017 and brought him to the majors to debut back in June (2021).
“There’s definitely a little more excitement there,” he said.
“It’s fun to see all the familiar faces, you know, I spent 4-5 years with that organization and built a lot of great relationships with those guys, and a lot of the players I’ve seen throughout the minors and in my brief time up in the big league with those guys. It’s fun to see those guys and it’s definitely fun competing against them and trying to do my best out there, so yeah, when I saw that I was catching Game 1 ... there was definitely a little bit more excitement, just given the circumstances of who we’re playing.”
Now he’s with a new organization, learning on the job in the majors alongside another new-to-big leagues backstop in Barrera, on a young team in the midst of a reboot following their sell-off at the deadline.
“They’ve both been doing really well,” Martinez said of his catching duo. “I think they feed off of one another, and we’ve got to remember too that Alex Avila is here with us, and he’s helped out a lot, between those three sitting with [pitching coach] Jim Hickey, going over the game plan, talking to the pitchers every day, I know they’ve had good conversations with the starters and trying to learn them and trying to get on their routine, they’ve been really good. The conversations have been good. Tres has done a great job with our pitching staff, and he’s continuing to learn, and so has Riley.
“Riley, he’s done really well back there calling games. I’m really surprised, as big as he is back there, he gives a good target and he gets down and blocks balls fairly well.”
After a couple years with Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes behind the plate, then a half-season of Gomes and Avila, the Nationals rolling two relatively unproven receivers out there is new for their manager.
“It’s been a lot of conversations, good conversations, but like I said, they’re both willing to learn, wanting to learn,” Martinez said. “Every day it’s been conversations, talking through some stuff with them, going over sometimes — some mistakes with them so that they learn, but they’re very receptive, so it’s been a lot of fun.”
Nats’ starter Patrick Corbin talked after last night’s game, in which he and Adams worked through 6 1⁄3 in which he gave up just one run, about working with two rookie catchers.
“They seem older than they are,” Corbin said. “They don’t seem like rookies back there, they’ve been calling I feel great games, and they want to learn, they’re willing to learn, and both of them are always sitting in on meetings, and trying to figure us out, and I know it’s tough on them as well to come in here and catch all of these different guys, and just hopefully the rest of the season we continue to gain experience for them, and they can get familiar with us, and looking forward to getting to work with both of them.”
Kieboom and García Updates:
Carter Kieboom struggled again at the start of his latest opportunity in the majors with the Nationals, but he started to turn it around when the calendar flipped from July to August, and the 23-year-old 2016 1st Round pick talked earlier this month about one at bat that he’d felt kind of helped it click.
“It was tough for a little while,” Kieboom said, “and then I think I would say the last fly ball I hit — I don’t know, when we were playing the Cubs, hit one to left-center, and then from there it’s kind of been — I felt something kind of different, and then from there, just taking that same feel to every single at bat now and I think that’s been the biggest difference.”
Going back to August 1st, Kieboom was 17 for 56 (.304/.375/.500) with two doubles, three home runs, six walks, and 15 strikeouts over 16 games and 64 PAs going into this weekend, and the Nationals’ three-game set with the Brewers in Milwaukee, WI.
His manager said on Friday afternoon that he’s seen the third baseman make real progress at the plate.
“I think gradually he’s been getting a little bit more comfortable,” Martinez said. “The good thing about Carter is that — like I said earlier, that he’s starting to swing a lot more early in the count, and really trying to stay on the ball early and using the whole field, and that’s good to see. He’s been aggressive in the strike zone early in the count. First few times he’s been up here he was trying to see a lot of pitches, it seems like he was hitting 0-2, 1-2 a lot, and that’s tough to hit constantly like that up here, but I like the fact that he’s going up there, he’s being aggressive in the strike zone, and he’s really hitting pitches really hard.
“The other good thing about that is he’s also taking his walks. He’s got a really — he’s got a good eye, he’s not afraid to take his walks, so that’s good to see too as a young player.”
Another young player, [ed. note - “Smooth transition.”] Luis García, got a start at second last night, against Brewers’ lefty Brett Anderson, with the Nationals’ noting in their notes for the series opener in Milwaukee that so far this season, the 22-year-old infielder is hitting lefties a bit better than right-handed pitchers.
The left-handed swinging García started the series with the Brewers with a .286/.348/.476 line, one double, and a home run in 23 PAs vs left-handers, and a .185/.232/.338 line, with two doubles and two home runs in 69 PAs vs right-handed pitchers this season, his second in the majors after debuting in 2020’s 60-game campaign. So what’s working in the smaller of the two sample sizes vs lefties as opposed to the bigger sample vs righties?
“If you notice against lefties he really forces himself to stay in there a little longer, uses the whole field, really uses left field,” Martinez said. “We want him to do that against righties too. Obviously we know he can pull the ball, but he’s pulling off a little bit against right-handed pitching, probably trying to do a little bit too much, but for me, I know he got a base hit the other day to left field, and that’s the kind of swing that I’ve seen him have, especially when I saw him in Spring Training, and down in the minor leagues, he stays on the ball well, and I really want him to focus on just hitting the ball in the middle of the field, that’s where he’s really good. Every now and then he’ll drive the ball, we know that, he’s got power to all fields, but just against right-handed pitching just stay on the ball a little longer and try to hit the ball up the middle.”
Rotation in Milwaukee:
Erick Fedde would have been lined up to start the series finale with the Brewers on Sunday afternoon on regular rest, but when the rotation for three-game set was announced, it was Patrick Corbin, Paolo Espino, and Sean Nolin going for the Nationals this weekend.
“I just wanted to give Fedde an extra day, so we’ll got with Pat today, Espino, and then Nolin on Sunday,” Martinez explained in his pregame Zoom call.
So, going forward, will it line up with Josiah Gray, Corbin, Espino, Nolin, and Fedde in that order?
“It can be,” Martinez said.
“We still got another day off coming up, two more days, so we’ll see how it plays out.
“I wanted to give Sean [Nolin] an opportunity to start on Sunday, and that’s what we’re going to go with.”