Center Field For the Nationals:
Lane Thomas was penciled in as the Washington Nationals’ leadoff man and center fielder for a fourth straight game last night. Victor Robles had been dealing with a non-COVID illness of some sort in the last few days, but he pinch hit in Tuesday night’s series opener with Miami’s Marlins, and before the game, his manager, Davey Martinez, told reporters that he would likely run the 23-year-old outfielder out there in the 2nd of 3 in loanDepot park.
“Victor said he felt better today, he’s going to go out there and do all the baseball activity, and then if he feels good he’ll come off the bench today if we need him or he’ll be back in there tomorrow,” Martinez said.
Thomas, 26, and acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals for Jon Lester, was 1 for 4 with a two-out RBI single in the fourth inning of a 5-1 win, leaving him 10 for 19 with a triple and two doubles, six walks, and two Ks in his first seven games (and five starts) with his new team, and, as noted above, he was back atop the lineup and in center field again in the second game of the Nationals and Marlins’ three-game set.
“Victor is feeling better,” Martinez said when he was asked about the decision before last night’s game. “Lane is playing well, and I want to see him continue to play. We’ll get Victor in there, but he’s been a lot better. So we’ll get Victor in there here, either today he’ll play again, coming off the bench, and maybe starting tomorrow, but Lane is playing well and I want to see him play.”
So is Lane going to be starting in center on an everyday basis going forward?
“Not exactIy,” Martinez said. “We’ll see, but like I said, I based a lot of it on matchups, I think Lane matches up against this kid [Edward Cabrera] today, and I want to play him and give him an opportunity to play. Like I said, he’s earned the opportunity to play and he’s playing well.
“Eventually I got to get Victor back in there, I want Victor to play, like I said, he’s a big part of our future, so he’ll get back in there, but he was real sick, couldn’t do anything for a few days, yesterday he felt better, so we’ll let him go out there, run around again early, see how he feels and then try to plop him in there if we need him today.”
In 17 games, 15 starts, and 71 PAs in August, Robles, 24, is 14 for 64 (.219/.275/.344) with five doubles and a home run over that stretch, and overall in 2021, Robles is at .207/.314/.302, 21 doubles, one triple, and two home runs.
Martinez was asked if there’s a fine line between continuing to show confidence in Robles and letting him know that he needs to do better than he has over the last two seasons?
“If anybody has shown that guy confidence, it’s this guy right here,” Martinez said, pointing, of course, to himself.
“I run him out there every day and I tell him how good he is, and how good he can be. We just got to keep working.
“I love the kid, I really do, and he’s going to be really good, I believe that. So I’m going to run him back out there, he understands that, and like I told him, ‘Lane’s going to play today, but be ready,’ but he’ll be back out there soon. Moving forward, we need Victor.
“This guy for me could be a game changer, he really can. As we all know, he has the potential to win a Gold Glove in the future, but when he gets on base he can make things happen. He’s one of those electric players. We got to get him going. We’re going to get him going, and hopefully he finishes strong the rest of this year and comes back next year ready to go. The biggest thing for me as I talk to him is don’t worry about the numbers, you know, just play each and every day, and focus on each at bat, focus on your defense, focus on your baserunning, and don’t worry about what the numbers say, just play the game the right way and have fun.”
More Finding The Right Balance:
In discussing the balance of finding at bats and starts for his center fielders, Martinez noted that he’s also trying to find a way to play both of his catchers on a regular basis, with a new backstop in the mix, Riley Adams, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for Brad Hand at the trade deadline, and Tres Barrera, a 2016 Nationals’ 6th Round pick, both playing well since a trade (Yan Gomes to Oakland) and injuries (Alex Avila, bilateral calf strains and a COVID-IL stint; and Rene Rivera; elbow contusion; then released) provided opportunities for both to step up and start in the majors.
“We’ve got the same example as Riley Adams and Tres Barrera both, they’re both doing well and trying to get them both playing time,” Martinez explained.
“So, like I said, Victor will be back in there, I’m just giving Lane some opportunities to start games, and play, and then we’ll see where it goes from there.”
The fourth-year skipper talked after Tuesday night’s win, which Barrera started, about how he was deciding which of his catchers he plays on a daily basis, depending on matchups.
Barrera, 26, went 3 for 4 with a home run and a single in the series opener, leaving him with a .279/.374/.407 line, three doubles, a triple, and two home runs in 28 games and 99 PAs on the season.
“I can match both of those guys up with different pitchers to catch and also match them up against guys I feel like they can do [well]. I thought today with Tres [against Jesús Luzardo], he could get a ball out over the plate a little bit and hit — be able to be okay with it. He had great at bats, I like the ball that he hit to right field as well with two strikes, and then he comes up and man, his swing was so short today, and that was good to see. He came up and hit a breaking ball, a changeup out for a home run, and I thought that was the shortest swinging I’ve seen him have in a while.”
Adams, 25, and 11 for 33 (.333/.421/.606) with three doubles and two homers since joining the Nationals on August 3rd, got the start in the second game of the series with the Fish.
Did Martinez like how he worked with starter Josiah Gray? Barrera and Adams split the first four starts for Gray in D.C. (after he was acquired from the LA Dodgers in the Max Scherzer and Trea Turner deal). Did he like the matchup with Adams against debuting Marlins’ starter Edward Cabrera?
“I like both,” Martinez said. “I want to see Riley catch Josiah. He did a great job with him before, I want to see him catch him again, and I also like the matchup against Riley and Cabrera today, he throws the ball, he gets the ball down.
“I think Riley has a good chance of hitting him, so we’ll see what happens during the game.”
Adams was 2 for 3 at the plate in the Nationals’ 4-3 loss to the Marlins.
Yadiel Hernández Is Funny Apparently:
A two-hit night in Tuesday’s opener left Yadiel Hernández 22 for 64 (.344/.403/.578) with a double, a triple, and four home runs in 20 games and 72 PAs in August, and 48 for 158 in a total of 80 games and 176 PAs on the season, .304/.364/.462, over which he’s hit a total of five doubles and six home runs. Hernández has spoken a few times with reporters on Zoom calls, through team translator Octavio Martinez, and he has a lot of interesting stuff to say, but it isn’t real easy to get a feel for a player’s personality in that forum. He’s kind of a quiet, unassuming, guy. A 33-year-old, second-year major leaguer who took a long road to the big leagues. So what is he like behind the scenes?
“He’s quiet to you guys,” Martinez told reporters. “He’s actually got quite a personality, he’s pretty funny, but he goes about his business, he wants to help us win. Like I said before, the guy can hit. He has good at bats every time he’s up there. So, you know, and we talk a lot about the rest of the game, that he needs to understand the rest of the game, and play good defense, he’s worked really hard at it and he has gotten better out there. Running the bases, you could see yesterday he didn’t hesitate to go to third base on a ball down the line.
“I’m starting to see progress, not just his hitting, as I said, he’s a good hitter, but his whole game in particular he’s starting to get a lot better, and that’s great.”