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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Mason Thompson; Kyle Finnegan; NL East race + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability over the weekend.

One-pitch Pitcher:

Acquired from the San Diego Padres along with infielder infielder Jordy Barley in a 2-for-1 deal for Daniel Hudson, Mason Thompson, a 6’7’’, 23-year-old, 2016 3rd Round pick, who debuted in the majors for the Friars earlier this season, throws predominantly sinkers, 90.7%, occasionally mixing in a four-seam fastball he throws 7% of the time, a changeup (1.2%), and a slider (1.2%). But it’s all about that sinker for the right-hander, who averages 97.1 MPH with the pitch.

In three appearances out of the Nationals’ bullpen, Thompson has tossed 2 23 scoreless, giving up four hits and a walk without giving up any runs.

So what’s going on with his sinker that allows him to get away with essentially being a one-pitch pitcher? Is it the movement, deception in his delivery? What exactly allows him to be successful working with essentially one pitch?

“Yeah, he’s throwing it really well,” Davey Martinez said after Saturday night’s game, which saw Thompson throw a scoreless, 13-pitch sixth in which he gave up a hit and struck out a couple of batters, throwing 11 sinkers, and getting three swinging and three called strikes with the pitch.

“We knew when we traded for him that he had the ability to throw the sinkers like that,” the fourth-year skipper said. “A lot of time it was he tried to throw it too perfect, when his ball moves that much, we just want him to start the ball in the strike zone and let it do what it does, and as you can see it’s been effective. So for him it’s the same thing, I told him his best pitch in his repertoire is strike one, no matter what you do it’s always strike one, so try to work ahead of the hitters, so you got great movement on your balls, so just try to get strike one and go from there and he’s been doing that.”

Finnegan Again:

Kyle Finnegan talked after his blown save in the series finale with the Phillies on Thursday about wanting to get right back out there on the mound so he could move on from it.

“It’s not my first blown save,” Finnegan said. “It certainly won’t be my last, so got to take what I can from it, learn from it, and get back at’em tomorrow.”

It took two days to get back on the mound in a save situation, but Finnegan bounced back nicely with a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 frame on Saturday, after he warmed up quickly when the Nats rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning.

“Awesome. He was awesome,” Davey Martinez said of Finnegan’s performance on Saturday, before the series finale in Atlanta on Sunday.

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

“He was great. Like I said, he’s been great all year. Nothing really seems to rattle him. Of course he had a bad outing, but he came back the next day and told me he’s ready to go again, put him in there. And I love that about the guy. He just wants to help the team win and you saw him last night, just very composed, just wanted to get three outs, and he got through it fairly easy.”

Finnegan was installed as the closer after the Nats traded Brad Hand and Daniel Hudson at the deadline, and with Tanner Rainey (still considered to be a possible closer of the future in D.C.) and Wander Suero both at Triple-A sorting some things out, he has handled the transition from working a lot in the middle innings to the closer’s role well according to his manager.

Both Finnegan and his manager have talked since the move was made about treating the ninth like any other inning, and he has been handling the higher-leverage role well so far.

“He’s been good,” Martinez said, “... and for him and I that’s the plan. I told him to keep it simple. He’s pitched in high-leverage situations before, never in the ninth, but he’s pitched the 10th inning in a crucial situation with guys on second base and got out of it.

“I often talked about last year him coming in and pitching two innings in extra innings, and keeping us in the ballgame, we ended up winning the ballgame, I said, ‘Nothing’s different.

“‘Just go out there and just try to get outs.’”

IL and Rehab Notes:

Davey Martinez announced earlier this weekend that he was likely to have the members of his coaching staff who went on the COVID-IL recently back with the team by Tuesday night, after the club’s off day before the start of a three-game series with the New York Mets in Citi Field.

On Sunday, a reporter asked about Austin Voth and Alex Avila, both of whom were caught up in the second COVID outbreak of the season for the Nationals.

“Austin is going to go to Florida,” Martinez said. “He’s going to start working out there.

“Alex Avila will meet us hopefully next week in either New York or meet us back at home. But Austin needs to get going again and start throwing.

Tampa Bay Rays v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“He hasn’t really done much due to the COVID protocols, so we’ll get him going and try to get him back here as soon as possible.”

Avila, on the IL since July 3rd, (before the COVID pop), with bilateral calf strains, will need a bit of work before he’s ready to return.

“Once he’s cleared he’s going to come back, he hasn’t run or anything, and still has that calf injury, so we want to get him back here,” Martinez explained.

“They’re going to test him and see where he’s at, and hopefully try to get him to where he can start running here soon.”

Polite Davey - Still in the Fight:

Davey Martinez has stressed since the fire sale at the trade deadline that in spite of the spot his club is in at this point, no one in the clubhouse thinks of themselves as being out of the race in the NL East. So, when a reporter asked on Sunday if he had any thoughts on how the division is going to shake out this season, Martinez talked about the other teams battling for the NL East crown, ignoring for a moment that he’d said that the Nationals wouldn’t figure in the race.

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals - Game Two Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

But then...

“I know you said you don’t think we’re in it, but we very much feel like we’re still in it, we still got a lot of games left,” Martinez said. “Get some of these young players to play the way they’re capable of playing, get our pitching straightened out, don’t count us out. We’re going to come here and compete. We played 12-13 games where we felt like we were in every game. So we’re going to come and compete, and like I said, it’s a division that’s going to be wide open, I really believe that.”