Still No Juan Soto:
Juan Soto didn’t start for a second straight game in Atlanta after tweaking his right knee late in the series finale with the Philadelphia on Wednesday afternoon in the nation’s capital, but Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters before the 2nd of 3 with the Braves in Truist Park, that Soto was feeling better and had a clean MRI to support the idea that it’s not too serious an issue.
“He’s a little better,” Martinez said before the game.
“He had an MRI this morning, it was negative. He’s just got a contusion, so we’ve just got to treat it just day-to-day and see how he feels.”
The fourth-year skipper was asked if the fact that 22-year-old outfielder went for an MRI was a sign that it was more serious than originally thought.
“We just wanted to make sure,” he explained, “... and like I said we thought it was a little contusion, and that’s exactly what it is, so he’s going to be day-to-day.”
Soto was running on the basepaths when he felt something though, stopping and starting from second base on a liner up the middle that bounced off the bag before an error on a throw to first allowed him to score, so a contusion, or bruise, seems like a weird-ish sort of diagnosis, no? So how did it happen, exactly?
“We don’t know how,” Martinez acknowledged, “but he said he felt it when he took his lead at second base, took a secondary lead and stopped and he said he felt it.
“So, like I said, we’ll just keep an eye on it, he’s moving around a little better today. I told him, I said, if you’re available to pinch hit, just let me know.”
Soto did end up getting a pinch hit at bat late in the Nationals’ 3-2 win, walking before he was stranded, and he didn’t play the field afterwards.
Development vs Still Trying To Win?:
Davey Martinez penciled Gerardo Parra into his lineup as the Nationals’ No. 5 hitter and their starting right fielder against righty Charlie Morton and the Braves last night, with young-ish 27-year-old outfielder Andrew Stevenson in center, and 33-year-old, second-year big leaguer Yadiel Hernández in left, so, a reporter asked before the game, if there’s a reboot going on, and the Nationals are building for the future, why start Parra out there instead of someone like Victor Robles, who’s once again showing signs of life at the plate in the last few weeks?
“Well for me, Victor, I was going to give Victor a day for Charlie and get Stevenson in there and let him play some center field,” Martinez said.
“If Soto was available to play he’d play today in right field, and Yadi is swinging the bat.”
Hernández did have a nine-game hit streak going into the game.
“Look, regardless of what anybody thinks of what we’re going through,” Martinez continued.
“I don’t like losing, and I still want to compete, and still win games, so we’re still going to match up accordingly, and try to go out there and go 1-0 today.”
Is the balance between developing the younger players who’ll form the core of competitive teams the club is hoping to field in the future, and still trying to win games now difficult?
“Not really,” Martinez said. “I have, like I said, before we come into a series, I kind of know what I want to do accordingly, and then like I said, with Juan not being able to play, Parra has played right field before, he’s done it well, he’s got on base, he’s swung the bat well, you saw him yesterday steal a big bag for us, and like I said, against Charlie I wanted to get Stevenson out in center field.”
Speaking of Robles:
In six games since the July 30th trade deadline passed, Martinez has penciled Robles in as the leadoff hitter when he’s played, and the 24-year-old is 2 for 22 (.091/.231/.227) with one home run and a single in those games. What has his manager seen from him in this stretch?
“He’s seeing some pitches, seeing a lot of pitches,” Martinez said.
“We want him to still be aggressive in the strike zone, we don’t want him to start looking for walks, but we want him to accept his walks, but stay in the strike zone.”
Robles, after a leadoff home run on the first pitch of the game from Phillies’ starter Chase Anderson during the last homestand, said he was on board with the plan for him to be aggressive on pitches in the zone.
“Absolutely,” Robles said. “I want to be more aggressive within the strike zone and do some damage with those pitches.”
“Overall, I thought he’s doing better,” Martinez continued.
“He’s actually giving himself a chance to hit every pitch, which is nice. He’s missing some balls, I know he’s hit some balls in the air. Sometimes it’s just a timing thing, I’d rather see a ball hit in the air than hit on the ground at times, but I think he’s doing fine, he’s handling himself well. The biggest thing with Vic right now is not to worry what his batting average is or that stuff, but just continue to get better, cause we need him to get better like I said, he’s a big part of our future still and we want to see him grow and continue to get better.”
But how hard is it for a player who started the night on Saturday with a .193 AVG in 309 plate appearances to ignore the numbers?
“For me it’s just, and we talk to him a lot, just go out there and focus on today and focus on today’s game, and every at bat,” the skipper said, “and don’t worry about the outcome, just go out there and try to help us win today. And he’s really — his attitude has been great, he’s been working hard, I watch him every day, I talk to him every day about just go out there and continue his routine in the outfield as well, cause I told him, I said, ‘Hey, I still want you to be that Gold Glover every day, so just go out there and just continue to work hard,’ and he’s done that.”