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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Ryan Zimmerman; Juan Soto & that elbow-y move; Tanner Rainey returning + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Saturday...


There’s an old saying in baseball about natural hitters which says they could roll out of bed and hit a line drive or double whatever, and it came to mind after Ryan Zimmerman came in late in Friday night’s game and doubled off one Colorado Rockies’ reliever, then Zimmerman singled in his second trip to the plate.

We mentioned the roll out of bed saying to Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez in asking a question about Zimmerman’s ability to step in and swing it in any situation.

Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“I don’t know if he rolls out of bed,” Martinez joked. “He spends about four innings trying to get ready, but hey, he did it again tonight. He gets up there, he’s aggressive, gets a first pitch, double down the line, and then he works a really good at-bat, takes a single the other way. He’s just a professional hitter, he’s been that guy, and he understands the strike zone really well, so he’s swinging the bat well.”

The two-hit game left Zimmerman 5 for 10 with a double and two home runs in the last five games heading into Saturday’s matchup with the Rockies, and he got a start at first base vs lefty Kyle Freeland, and, of course, singled the first time up...

Soto’s Elbow:

Going back to Friday night one more time, Juan Soto walked to load the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth and the score tied at 7-7, but Josh Bell hit a ground ball towards second in the next at bat, and the Rockies’ second baseman Brendan Rodgers fielded it and went to tag Soto halfway between first and second, but as he did, Soto raised his elbow a bit and knocked the infielder off-balance enough that his throw to first was late, and a run scored to put the Nationals up 8-7 in what ended up a 9-8 loss.

Rockies’ manager Bud Black lobbied fruitlessly for the umpiring crew to take a second look at the play to see if Soto interfered with the infielder, so clearly they saw something either on the play, or on a replay, but nothing came of the conversations and the game moved on with a two-run rally in the top of the ninth deciding the series opener.

Colorado Rockies v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

What did Soto’s manager see on the play? Did he think Soto got the elbow up a little too much?

“No, honestly for me, he ran, he tried to back up, and then he froze,” Martinez explained.

“For me, if somebody is going to tag you, you want to put your hands up to protect yourself anyway, and that’s what I saw. I didn’t see him try — if he would have swung with his elbow, that would have been a different story, I didn’t see him do that.”

Bullpen Shuffle - Rainey Up, Suero Down:

Before Saturday afternoon’s game, the Nationals made a move to bring Tanner Rainey back to the nation’s capital, as Davey Martinez had been hinting he wanted to for weeks, so the hard-throwing right-hander, who has struggled with injuries all season, could get back out on the mound in the majors and hopefully finish up 2021 on a positive note.

Rainey, 28, wrapped up his latest stint at Triple-A Rochester with back-to-back outings this week, the final step the Nationals’ brass wanted to see him take before they called him up again, after an issue with his side kept him off the mound for a time in mid-to-late August.

“We made a move,” Martinez said in his pregame Zoom call on Saturday. “[Rainey is] back on. Wander Suero is optioned to Triple-A. Rainey was healthy, and he’s been throwing the ball well. So, I wanted to get him back up here, and get him to finish strong here.”

Rainey, still considered a potential closer of the future, had an injury end his 2020 season in early September, and a series of issues this season have kept him off the mound at several points, so getting him back and building his confidence back up is a big deal for the Nats’ fourth-year skipper.

“I want to get him on track, I want him to leave this year on a high note and know that he’s healthy and that he can start his winter program,” Martinez said.

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

“The big thing for me, is that he worked really hard to get back and like I said before, he didn’t want to leave and go into the winter being hurt, so he worked diligently to get back, and he has some really nice outings over the last week. So the biggest thing, I told him, I don’t want to bring you back unless you go back-to-back days, and he did that, he showed up here this morning, he had the day off yesterday, I asked him how he felt, and he said he felt great, so hopefully he finishes the season strong for us.”

As for Suero, who recently celebrated his 30th birthday? He went down to Triple-A in early August as well, with a list of things the Nationals wanted him to work on, and after just 7 23 IP over six outings back with the Nats, over which he gave up five hits (two home runs), two walks, and four runs, (three of them earned), he’s headed back down to the club’s top minor league affiliate to work on some of the same things.

“We want him to continue to get some work,” Martinez explained.

“The biggest thing for him is his cutter location. Work on his location, work on his breaking ball still. It was better, but we want him to continue to work on that, and like I said before, his changeup, again, we want him to throw it a little slower, he’s still like 88-89 MPH, we want him to get it down to about 86, and I know Hick [pitching coach Jim Hickey] talked to him a little bit about his grip, and he’s going to go down and work on that.”