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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Josh Bell returning to PNC Park; Josiah Gray workload; Luis García at the plate

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Friday from PNC Park...

Bell Returns To PNC:

Drafted by Pittsburgh in the 2nd Round in 2011, Josh Bell debuted with the Pirates in 2016, and put up a .261/.349/.466 line, 105 doubles, and 86 home runs in 552 games and 2,191 plate appearances for the Bucs before he was dealt to the Washington Nationals this past winter.

“Really can’t imagine being drafted by any other team, just because now I’m a first baseman and they were the team that gave me the opportunity, moved me, and really allowed me to develop there,” Bell said of the Pirates after that deal this past December.

Last night, the switch-hitting infielder returned to his former home for the first time, which his new manager said would probably mean a lot to the Nationals’ first baseman.

“Him coming back to basically where he grew up in the game is pretty awesome,” Davey Martinez told reporters before the series opener with the Pirates in PNC Park.

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

“I know he’s got a good fan base here, he did some unbelievable things here, in this city, so it’s going to be fun for him to come back and play against some of his old teammates.”

Bell arrived in his old home on a nice run with a .297/.402/.595 line, four doubles, and six home runs, 13 walks, and 10 Ks in his previous 20 games and 87 plate appearances.

Martinez said he hoped Bell would just continue to do what he had been doing, since the start of May really, in his return to his old home.

“Just continue to go out there and have fun and do his thing. He’s been playing really well, he’s swinging the bat well, so just go out there, and I tell him, just be you.”

After walking in his first two plate appearances last night, Bell connected for his 26th home run the third time up in the top of the sixth, taking lefty reliever Sam Howard deep to center field.

“Yeah, it was cool,” Bell said of homering in PNC Park again, “especially after the first couple at bats, you know, I wanted to be able to get my swing off and they walked me the first two, so first strike that I was able to see right-handed, after I threw my bat, I was actually kind of joking with [Pirates’ catcher Jacob] Stallings, said nothing changes. So he thought it was pretty funny.”

“It’s special,” fill-in skipper Tim Bogar said of Bell’s home run after the game, which he managed while Davey Martinez served a one-game suspension over that HBP on Braves’ first baseman Freddie Freeman this week.

“I know Josh was excited coming back here. I know he’s got a lot of friends and he spent a lot of his life here, so I was excited for him to get here and to play well and he walks a couple times and then he hits the home run, and it just felt great for him. You can’t feel any better than coming back to your old team and doing some damage.”

Gray Plan:

Josiah Gray was limited by a right shoulder impingement when he was still with the Dodgers this season, and since he was traded to the Nationals, his new club has been building him up carefully.

Heading into his outing today, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked last night about how they would handle the 23-year-old right-hander’s workload down the stretch.

It is, of course, not only Gray they’ll be monitoring.

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

“We’re watching them all,” Martinez told reporters.

“Josiah had a great session in the bullpen the other day,” he explained, “... and worked on some things mechanically, so I want to see him go out there and do it during the game, and we’ll see what he does, but yeah, we’re definitely going to keep an eye on him specifically, because as I said, he hasn’t pitched much, but we want to also build him up too going into this winter, and get him strong and get him ready for Spring Training of next year. But we’ll keep an eye on him, we’ll see how he does, and like I said, a lot of this is part of my conversation with him on a daily basis to see how he’s feeling, but the kid, like I said, the kid works hard, he loves to compete, he wants to be out there every five days, so if I deem that we need to shut him down, it’s going to be hard to convince him to do that. But right now he says he feels great.”

To be clear though, he said, there’s no predetermined pitch total or innings limit for Gray.

“No, like I said, we want to build him up and we want to use this year to mature up here in the major leagues. But if we deem that we see like his mechanics really getting off and he starts laboring a little bit then that will be a different conversation.”

Keep García Going:

Luis García had himself a series in Truist Park the last three days, going 4 for 13 with two doubles and a home run at the plate, while showing off the glove as well with some nice plays in the series finale.

Overall in September, the 21-year-old infielder was 11 for 35 (.314/.333/.629) heading into the series opener in PNC Park, with six doubles, a triple, and a home run over that stretch.

What does his manager want to see from the second baseman over the last few weeks of the 2021 campaign?

MLB: Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

“Consistency,” Martinez told reporters. “That’s what we always talk about with him.

“He’s been playing well, but you saw Luis play both sides of the ball, hitting, defense, that’s what we envision him to be in the future, but yet do it consistently, every day.

“He had a great series, and I hope that he continues to do that, starting with today.

“With that being said my biggest thing with him is just focus on the moment, and let’s worry about today.

“And he’s been doing a lot better, and I’ve been watching him, his routine has been really good, he’s been with [Bench/Infield coach Tim Bogar] on different things on fielding, and I know he’s working with K-Long [Hitting Coach Kevin Long] and Six [Assistant Hitting Coach Pat Roessler] on hitting. I said it before, when he gets a ball in the strike zone, he hits it hard, and that’s what we’re going to continue to work with him on.”