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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Alex Avila retiring, Luis García improving; Stephen Strasburg rehabbing...

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Thanks, Alex. They Should Have Never Made You Play 2B:

Alex Avila, 34, and approaching the end of his 13th major league season, announced on Sunday afternoon that he would be retiring at the end of the 2021 campaign.

Avila, who signed on with the Washington Nationals this winter on a 1-year/$1.5M deal, was limited by injuries, missing an extended period when he suffered bilateral calf strains after he played second base in the majors for the first time on July 1st, along with two, separate, trips to the COVID-IL, first in April and then again in August. But while he was limited by the health issues, the veteran backstop did what he could to help behind the scenes, especially after the fire sale at the trade deadline which saw the Nationals acquire two new catchers, Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams, who figure to handle the catching duties in D.C. for the next few years.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

“He’s been great,” Davey Martinez said of Avila’s contributions. “And he’s been constantly talking to Keibert and Riley, he talks to our pitchers all the time. He handles the pitching staff really, really well. The conversations in-between innings, going over hitters for the upcoming inning is tremendous with him. Even with younger catchers, he sits with them and tries to give them a game plan before they go back out. So, like I said, he’s definitely, one, he doesn’t come off as he thinks he knows everything. He’s still a student of the game, he wants to continue to learn, but yet he has so much knowledge, and he knows so much about the game as far as catching, that he’s helped all our catchers.

“Even when Yan [Gomes] was here, the conversations that those two guys had, I think Yan learned a lot from him as well.”

Avila told reporters he still wanted to stay in the game, now that his playing days are almost over, and Martinez said he thought there would be plenty of teams interested.

“Hopefully when he does decided what he wants to do, maybe down the road, we’ll have a spot for him here in this organization, because he does know the game very well.”

García vs RHPs; García vs LHPs + More:

Luis García sat out of Saturday’s game, with Rockies’ lefty Kyle Freeland starting, though he did get a pinch hit appearance late in the loss, but he started in Sunday’s series finale with Colorado in the nation’s capital, with right-hander Jon Gray on the mound, which was odd-ish, as least one reporter thought, given García’s splits on the season (.333/.358/.529 vs left-handed pitchers in 53 PAs 2021, .188/.233/.348 against right-handers in 146 PAs).

As the Nationals’ skipper explained it, however, it was more about just getting García, who has played a lot since coming back to the majors in late July, a day off regardless of any of the matchups this weekend.

“I told him again about giving him a day, you know, and he’s going to play today, but he’s going to play — as you know, he’s played a lot against lefties, a lot against righties, he has swung the bat good against left-handed pitching, just wanted to just give him a day.”

As impressive as García has been early in his big league career, there is plenty of room for improvement going forward, which his manager discussed as well.

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

“Once again, it’s all about his pitch selection when he swings,” Martinez said.

“He’s got to get the ball in the zone. When he gets the ball in the zone, he hits the ball really hard. He’s got to stay on the ball. I talk a lot to him about using the middle of the field. He’s really good when he does that, and that’s something that he needs to work on.

“When he’s starting to come back, and starting to get ready for his swings — I haven’t talked to him about going to winter ball yet, he might elect to go play in winter ball, for a month or so.

“If he does that I really want him to learn how to stay on the ball, and hit the ball up the middle of the field, and take pitches, and swing at strikes. That’s the biggest thing, is swing at strikes. We need him to get on base a little bit more, via walks, we don’t want him to lose his aggressiveness, but we want him to take his walks, and he’s really a high-ball hitter, very well, so we want him to get the ball up where he can drive the ball, that’s something that he can work on as well.”

Considering where he is in his career, and what he’s accomplished so far, García is off to an impressive start.

“If you think about it, you look at Luis, he’s 21 years old, he’s played [342*] games, I think, in the minor leagues, and that’s not a whole lot, so he’s still learning, he’s got tremendous upside and we know that. But yet, he handles himself fairly well. So he’s still got to work, and I think getting some more at bats in winter ball won’t hurt him. So, I’ll talk to him about it and I’ll see where he’s at. I know he wants to get quicker with his feet, and he wants to work out, but it’s all about development, and the more he plays, the better he’s going to be.”

[ed. note - “* = Martinez’s original estimate, which was oddly specific considering it was off by a bit, was that García had played 166 games in the minors to this point.”]

Strasdate; Upburg; Strasburg Update:

We haven’t heard much about Stephen Strasburg since he went in for surgery after he was diagnosed with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, but Martinez did provide up update when asked about the 33-year-old, 2019 World Series MVP’s progress over the last months.

“He’s continuing rehabbing, building strength,” Martinez said. “He won’t throw I don’t think until some time in November where he can pick up a baseball and actually start throwing.

Washington Nationals Summer Workouts Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

“So hopefully he’ll start doing that, and like I said, we’ll see him in Spring Training, hopefully full-go, that’s what we intend — that he’s ready to go in Spring Training.”

The good news, Martinez explained, is that Strasburg is on schedule with his rehab program and still targeting a return in Spring Training 2022.

“Nothing has changed,” the manager said.

“He actually says — I talked to him yesterday again — and he said he feels really good, he feels like he’s getting a lot better every day, so that’s a good sign.”