A 2 for 3 game for Victor Robles on Thursday night left the 24-year-old outfielder with a .324/.360/.592 line in 18 games and 76 plate appearances at Triple-A Rochester, since a decision to send him to the Washington Nationals’ top affiliate at the end of August. He’s doing everything the club hoped he would after struggling in the majors in the last two seasons, but with Lane Thomas putting up solid numbers in the majors since he came to D.C. from St. Louis at the trade deadline in July, the Nats don’t seem to be in any rush to bring Robles back up.
“They said he’s playing well, and he’s playing consistent,” manager Davey Martinez said in his pregame Zoom call with reporters on Friday afternoon, when asked about reports he’s getting on Robles from Triple-A, where the outfielder has eight doubles and three homers since going down.
“So that’s great for us moving forward,” Martinez added.
“So we want to continue to let him play every day and kind of, like I said, it’s work things out and be consistent, and he’s playing with a lot of energy. It’s something that we talked about when we sent him down: He can look at this two ways, and the way that he’s looking at it is that he’s going down there and doing everything he can to get better, and he wants to be back up here and help us win.”
It just might not be this season, and the Nationals made that clear when they sent him to Triple-A.
“I told him, I said, ‘I don’t know if it’s going to be this year, but definitely Spring Training you need to be ready to go, and you need to feel like you’re going to come up here and make this club next year.’ But he took it to heart, and he’s playing really hard, and [Rochester manager] Matt Lecroy appreciates the way he’s going about his business every day and playing. So that’s good for us and good for him.”
Meanwhile, in the majors, Thomas, acquired from the Cardinals in a straight-up trade for Jon Lester, started the night on Friday with a .288/.379/.518 line, 10 doubles, two triples, six HRs, 21 walks, and 36 Ks in 36 games and 161 PAs since joining the Nationals.
As Martinez had said previously, they want to get a good look at what Thomas can do, and they want Robles to play every day, so for now they’re going to keep Robles at Triple-A.
“We want Victor to play every day, and that’s the key,” the fourth-year skipper said. “He’s going down there with no pressure, and he’s working on different things. He’s working on some stuff with his swing and playing the game, stealing bases, working on jumps, so we want him to continue to do that. Lane is playing well, and I don’t want take Lane out of the lineup neither, so we’re going to let [Robles] stay down there and continue to play. As long as they’re playing down there and they’re playing in the playoffs, I want him to play every day.”
And how is Robles, whose struggles the last two seasons followed a 2019 campaign which saw him help the Nationals win the first World Series by a D.C.-based team since 1924 been handling the struggles, and the move to Rochester, NY?
“Like I said, I talked to him, [GM Mike Rizzo] talked to him, before he left,” Martinez said.
“We were very adamant about saying, ‘This doesn’t mean we’re giving up on you. We just want you to go down there, relax, and just play every day with no pressure on you, and just figure some things out,’ and work on the things that we wanted him to work on and he’s been doing that.”
Kyle Finnegan battled through a tough inning, walking a tightrope to earn the save in the series opener in Cincinnati on Thursday night, giving up two runs after taking the mound with a 3-0 lead, then closing the door before the Reds could tie it up. It was the 64th trip out to the mound and 63rd inning of work for the hard-throwing right-hander this season, so a reporter asked in Davey Martinez’s post-game Zoom call if he thought the 30-year-old reliever was gassed at this point in the season.
“No, I’m concerned more where he’s throwing the ball, location,” Martinez said.
“He’s a sinkerballer that throws 96, that’s throwing the ball up,” he explained. “I talked to him after the game, he’s got to get the ball down. We’ve got a lot of numbers, a lot of stuff on him and where he’s at, and the trainers say that he’s good, he’s built himself up to go this far, and honestly, if we were headed to the playoffs, I want to see what he can do, and he wants to see what he can do. So, you know, we gave him some days off this week, he had his chance to close out the game, it wasn’t the cleanest, but he got through it, he got three outs for us, and he picks up the save.”
It was Finnegan’s 11th save of the season, in 15 opportunities. The follow-up question after Martinez’s comments about the closer needing to say down in the zone, was why he’s up with his pitches in the first place.
“Sometimes you get to read all these analytics about pitching up, you know, and for him, it’s been counterproductive,” Martinez said.
“He’s a guy, like I said, he’s really good when he throws the ball down. He sinks the ball and moves the ball in and out. When he’s down, his slider’s a lot better, he can throw it down, and his split’s a lot better. So like I said, I talked to him after the game about it, and we’re going to work with him, and hopefully he starts getting the ball down and we’ll see if the results are better.”
Finnegan gave up a single and hit a batter in the ninth inning of a tie game last night, but got out of the inning with things still knotted up at 7-7, and Martinez liked what he saw.
“Finnegan actually threw the ball a lot better,” the manager said after an 8-7 loss in extras.
“He kept the ball down, ground ball base hit, but I thought he threw the ball a lot better today.
“We talked a lot today about him just throwing the ball down, and he did that, and like I said, he kept the ball on the ground.
Kyle McGowin landed on the 10-Day IL back on July 11th with a strained right biceps, and he was off the mound in the majors until August 24th, two days after he was reinstated from the IL.
McGowin, made five appearances out of the pen upon returning, giving up two hits and one run in 4 1⁄3 innings pitched, but the 29-year-old right-hander felt something was off during a throwing session, and a subsequent MRI revealed a UCL sprain in the reliever’s right elbow.
Davey Martinez said at the time that he didn’t want to jump to conclusions about what the next step would be for McGowin until the reliever got a second opinion on the sprain.
“I don’t want to assume anything until we hear back from the doctor and he assesses what’s going on,” Martinez said, “... so as soon as I know more, I’ll let you guys know more, but like I said, he’s going to get an opinion from another doctor, and then we’ll go from there.”
There was finally an update last night.
“Obviously we shut him down,” Martinez said.
“He got an injection, in his arm, elbow, and so he’s been shut down, and he’s going to start rehabbing as soon as he’s allowed to start throwing and starts throwing again.”
So, for now at least, no need for Tommy John or any other type of surgery?
“No surgery,” the manager said.