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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on late night flight, Alcides Escobar; Erick Fedde & Sam Clay’s curve grip...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Friday in New York...

Red Eye To New York:

Davey Martinez and Co. knew what they were in for with a 7:10 start on getaway day down in Miami on Thursday, and a 7:10 PM opener on Friday night in New York. He talked prior to the finale with the Marlins about the “unique” scheduling that would mean a late-night flight for the club, and not much sleep before the first of three with the Mets in Citi Field.

“That’s a very good way to put it, unique,” Martinez said. “Hey, unfortunately I don’t make the schedule, that’s MLB’s decision, but we got to play. I’ll tell you this, depending on what time we get into NY, we might have a late start tomorrow. I’m sure we’re going to get in in the wee hours of the morning, but I tried to tell the guys let’s just focus on going 1-0 today, and worry about tomorrow tomorrow.”

So, when did the Nationals get to New York (or Newark Airport at least, before a ride to NY)?

“Late,” he said on Friday afternoon. “Very late. We got in — I think that we landed around 3:30. We flew in to Newark [NJ].

“I probably fell asleep at around 6:00 [AM]. Yeah. I had to do some work last night you know.”

Alcides in 2022?:

The first of two hits for Alcides Escobar in Thursday’s series finale in Miami extended a hit streak to eight straight, over which the 34-year-old infielder was 11 for 36 (.306/.359/.389), with three doubles and two walks over that stretch, which left him at .272/.332/.361 with a total of 10 doubles, a triple, a home run, seven walks, and 26 Ks in 186 PAs since joining the Nationals in a trade with the Kansas City Royals.

Considering he was playing at Triple-A in the Royals’ system, after a year in Japan in 2020, and hadn’t played in the majors since 2018 when they acquired him, it’s pretty impressive production from the 12-year veteran, who had a .258/.293/.343 line in his first 11 seasons in the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Royals between 2008-18.

“Honestly, he’s having fun,” Escobar’s manager, Davey Martinez, said before Friday’s game in New York. “He’s enjoying the game, he’s getting an opportunity to play in the big leagues again, which is great for him. He’s such an unbelievable person to be around and the guy is always cheerful, he’s always excited to play. He loves to play.”

What’s behind the success at the plate? Martinez had some ideas.

“The biggest thing for me is — I talk a lot about his head. When I first saw him he would tilt his head to hit, and when you see a guy like that, a lot of times it’s hard to see the ball with two eyes.

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins PMiami Marlinsto by Mark Brown/Getty Images

“I talk a lot to him about getting his head up a little bit so he can stay on top of the baseball a little bit better and he seemed to like that, and it gives him a little bit more time.”

The veteran infielder is also hard at work behind the scenes, trying to take advantage of his opportunity while doing what he can to help the next generation of Nationals.

“He works diligently,” Martinez said. “He’s in the cage with K-Long [Hitting Coach Kevin Long].

“He’s always taking ground balls. The great thing about it, he’s really been helping Luis [García] out a lot.

“As you can see, he talks to him a lot, him and Carter [Kieboom]. He talks to them a lot, on the infield during the games and tries to help position them, and he tells them where to be a lot of times.

“It’s great to have him around. I mean, this guy is still — I really feel like down the line he still has a lot more in him.”

Enough to warrant a return to the Nationals in 2022?

“I think this guy can be very important, especially when he can play third base, shortstop, second base, and even play the outfield,” Martinez said.

“Offensively he’s doing well, he really is. And if he can continue to do that for the rest of the year, I can’t see why — it will be a conversation we’ll definitely have at the end of the season about possibly bringing him back here.”

“But I love — like I said,” Martinez added, “his attitude has been tremendous, and he’ll do anything, hit anywhere, do whatever you ask him to do.”

Fedde Throwing Clay’s Curve:

Erick Fedde struck out a career-high 10 batters when he faced the Marlins earlier this week, and threw his curveball 38 times (37% of his 103 pitches, up from a season-average of 17.6% of the time), generating 21 swings and nine swinging strikes, and three called strikes with it, and he talked afterwards about having changed his grip a few starts back after talking to his teammate, reliever Sam Clay, about how the lefty threw his own breaking ball.

“Honestly, about four or five starts ago I had a talk with Sam Clay,” Fedde said, “... cause — I know [Clay is a] lefty — but I thought we threw kind of similar, and I was looking at — I don’t know, when I’m sitting on the bench I look through the iPads of people pitching and I don’t know I just kind of had a conversation with him on how he threw it and I adopted the grip and it immediately clicked. I think the last four or five starts I’ve had more swings and misses on it, or bad takes, and ever since then it’s just been good, so I’m thankful for him.”

Fedde’s manager, Davey Martinez, was aware of the change before the starter told reporters about the conversations, and he said on Friday night that he loved seeing his pitchers trying to help one another improve.

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

“I love it. I really do,” Martinez said. “This is a good group of guys, and they feed off of each other, and they want to help each other get better, and the fact that Sam Clay can talk to Fedde, or Fedde can go up to Sam and ask him how he grips his breaking ball, it’s pretty awesome. It’s just a testament to how these guys want to work together, and I love it, and we talked about it and it was good.

“He brought it up to [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey, and Hickey wanted to see it first before he went out there and did anything, and it did, the break was a lot better as we saw.

“It’s awesome that these guys will share things with one another trying to help each other to get better.”

On the night of Fedde’s last start, Martinez said the curveball was, “a lot sharper than it ever has been, it was shorter, it was a late break,” adding that it was, “... tough to recognize, you could tell by the swings of the hitters.

“If he can do that consistently and keep it that way, he’s going to be good. We said that before.”