Davey Martinez talked before Tuesday night’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies about getting an opportunity to watch Luis García play short, with Alcides Escobar, (who’d been the shortstop for Washington most nights in the post-Trea Turner era for the Nationals), out after fouling a pitch off his left kneecap in Monday night’s game.
Martinez noted that García, 21, came up in the organization as a shortstop, while explaining where he thought there was still room for improvement in García’s defensive game.
“My biggest thing — he moves around pretty good over there — my biggest thing with him is his throwing from shortstop,” Martinez said.
“He’s got a strong enough arm, obviously, but he gets a little erratic. His arm angle changes periodically. So it’s something that we got to work with him over there, and to stay in his legs a little bit better. He throws the ball and he never finishes, never goes towards his target where he’s throwing. He doesn’t use his legs, so [bench and infield coach Tim Bogar] is back and he’s got all this stuff written down, he’s been watching games, so he’s looking forward to working with all these guys.”
Drilling with Bogar and putting in the work, the manager said, they’re hoping that they can break some bad habits they’ve seen from García.
“The biggest issue with Luis [at] both second and at short, is his feet, and continuing to move his feet,” Martinez explained. “His feet got to work, and like I said, it’s a process that we’ve talked to him about, we’re going to continue to work with him, but he’s got to continue to use his feet, and when he does that he’s really good. And he understands it, and it’s just a habit, and we’ve got to break him out of that habit, and we got to get him to use his feet all the time.”
Bogar missed some time on the COVID-IL, then he had surgery on his back, which kept him away from the team, but he returned earlier this week, and when Martinez had a surgical procedure Thursday morning, on what was a scheduled off-day before Wednesday night’s game with the Phillies was postponed by inclement weather, and the bench coach filled in for the manager in his pregame Zoom call with reporters, where he was asked about those notes he’s been taking while he was watching from afar, and where García is at defensively in general.
“I’ve really liked Luis,” Bogar said. “I like the way he plays the game, he’s got a lot of energy. Young kid who works hard. I think the one thing that Luis is going to be working on that we’re going to be working on is just his consistency. He’s a young kid that hasn’t played a ton of games and then obviously moving over to second base a little bit more, he’s been there a lot, but the more he’s over there the better he’s going to get, and I have had a talk with him since I came back about just being more consistent with his pre-pitch, and being ready and understanding the other team’s lineup and knowing where to play and things like that, but Luis has got a great upside, I think the kid has got some really good athletic ability defensively, turning a double play ... he’s one of the best I’ve seen as a young player. So I’m excited to work with him a lot more.”
If you’re wondering, like we were, what Bogar meant when he said García needs to be more consistent with his “pre-pitch”, he explained.
“Well, it’s just one of those things where you’re out there for 180-200 pitches, and you got to be ready every 180-200 pitches,” Bogar said.
“If you take one off, and a ball is hit to you, it catches you by surprise. Luis has got all the skills to make all the plays, and I just don’t want him to ever get caught not knowing what’s going to happen before it happens.
“It’s part of maturing and playing the game and especially at this level, the fastest level of baseball. But he’ll get there, and he’s doing better and I think it’s shown on the field.
“He’s played pretty well defensively.”
Unfortunately, a defensive lapse by the young infielder occurred a pivotal moment in the Nationals’ 7-6 loss to the Phillies on Thursday.
With the bases loaded and the Nationals ahead 6-4 in the eighth, reliever Andres Machado got a ground ball to second that looked like a potential inning-ending DP, but García didn’t field it cleanly, and the ball scooted by him and on into right field, allowing two runs in that tied it up, 6-6.
With runners on the corners in the next at bat, Machado got another ground ball, which the second baseman fielded cleanly, but he hesitated for a second like he was going throw it to the plate, before pivoting and throwing to second base, with the extra beat enough to delay the throw to first so the runner reached safely and the go-ahead run scored, 7-6.
“It’s — to me it’s a little bit of an aggression thing,” Bogar said after the game. “I think the ball, the first ball that was hit to him was hit pretty hard, but if he would have been a little more aggressive with the glove and go get the ball instead of letting the ball come to him, that’s what we’ve been working on, just being a little more aggressive with his glove and getting his footwork down. He’s a young player, he’s going to have to keep working on it and keep growing, and he knows, we talk about it, he knows what he needs to do, and big situation in the game and it just happened to show its head right there.”
“I think the problem was I attacked the ball too fast, too quickly,” García said. “The ball was hit very well, I didn’t anticipate it being hit that well, so I attacked it a little too early, I think I should have stayed back, played it a little bit better back a little bit, and I think that was the biggest issue.”
On the second play, he said, he did think he had a chance for an out at home.
“I did believe there was a possibility of an out at home,” he qualified. “But I didn’t want to put myself in a position where it got me on an in-between hop, so I tried to play it where I could get a good bounce off the read that I had made to make the play.”
[ed. note - “This clip gives a good idea of just how quickly the game moves, as García fields the grounder, thinks about throwing home, goes to second, and a relay arrives at first a step late, as the go-ahead run scores.”]
Well would you look at that…— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) September 2, 2021
…a run. pic.twitter.com/iXjooqKycT
“I was thinking to attack the ball like I had initially said,” García explained further. “But I read the ball in a way that I thought that it was possibly going to give me a bad bounce or an in-between hop, so I laid back and made sure I got a good bounce. I wanted to stop the ball, I didn’t want to give up two runs on that play, in case it got by me, or I got an in-between hop and I wasn’t able to make the play. So as soon as I made the play I threw to second base hoping we could still turn a double play, but Herrera runs really well, so we were unable to.”
Is there anything to learn, or lessons to take from the plays?
“There’s a lot of plays that occur during a baseball game and you can learn from each and every one of them,” García said.“It’s one of those things that you learn every day a new thing, and you live and learn basically from the mistakes and move on to the next day and hopefully next time you’re able to make that play.”