Baldonado vs Harper:
Washington Nationals’ bench coach Tim Bogar filled in for Davey Martinez as the team’s manager on Thursday, with Martinez going in for a minor surgical procedure on his ankle.
Bogar admitted before the series finale with the Philadelphia Phillies in D.C. that he was not all that familiar with 28-year-old, Panamian left-hander Alberto Baldonado, who was called up from Triple-A this week.
Baldonado, who signed with the Nationals this winter, after 10 seasons in the minors with the Cubs and Mets, posted a combined 2.88 ERA, nine walks (1.99 BB/9), and 47 Ks (10.40 K/9) in 34 games and 40 2⁄3 IP between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Rochester before getting called up to the majors for the first time.
“I don’t know much about him — obviously I know that he’s got a pretty good fastball,” the fill-in skipper said, “... throws a curveball and a slider and a little bit of a changeup, but he attacks hitters well. He goes after them. He’s done well in Triple-A. He’s struck out over 10 K/9, he’s only walked — I think it’s a little over 2 BB/9, so he throws strikes and gets after people, so looking forward to seeing him, we’ll see if we can get him to face Bryce [Harper] today, who knows.”
As it turned out, Baldonado did in fact face the one-time Nationals’ and the current Phillies’ slugger when he made his MLB debut in the top of the seventh. Harper stepped in with a runner on and two out and went down swinging at a 96+ MPH full-count sinker, after falling behind 0-2 and spitting on three consecutive sliders out of the zone.
“I thought it was really good,” Bogar said of the matchup with Harper, “in the fact that he — when he got him 0-2 he was trying to throw his slider to get him to chase, but then he came with the fastball to strike him out up above the zone. He had it inside of him to go ahead and give [Harper] his best stuff, and got it by him, it was nice to see.”
While the Nationals’ fourth-year manager wasn’t able to be on the bench on Thursday, he was in Nationals Park, and watching closely as Baldonado made his debut, throwing 93.7 MPH sinkers (average velo), 80 MPH sliders, and some 93+ MPH four-seamers.
“He’s got three good pitches,” Martinez said before Friday’s series opener with the New York Mets. “We’ve watched him for a while now and he’s been throwing the ball — he had trouble throwing strikes at first, and then he started finding the strike zone with his fastball, his changeup, his curveball. So, he throws in the mid-90s, which we like, he’s left-handed, so I talked to [GM Mike] Rizzo about getting him up there, and we thought it would be a good time see him. Like I said, when you get a left-hander that can throw a decent curveball and a 96 MPH fastball, we definitely want to take a look at him.”
He wasn’t on the bench to watch, but Martinez still got to interact with the left-hander, who waited a long time to make his debut in the majors.
“I talked to him yesterday before the game and I just told him to relax and you be you, well-deserved,” the manager said.
“Some of these guys stick with it for a long period of time, and he found something in Triple-A this year, so deserving of him being here.”
“After the game I talked to him, and I said, ‘How’d you feel?’ And he looked at me and goes, ‘Very nervous.’ So, I said, ‘Good job.’ And I said, ‘You’ll be right back out there as soon as we get you out there.’ But I thought he did well.”
How’s Joe Doing?:
An MRI on Joe Ross’s right elbow last month revealed a partial tear of his UCL, but the right-hander and his doctors decided that it would not necessarily require surgery, though it was going to cost him the rest of the season and need a lot of rest and then rehab.
There hasn’t been much news on Ross since, but Martinez did provide an update on Friday afternoon.
“He’s here,” the manager said in his pregame Zoom call with reporters from Nationals Park.
“I’ve talked to him the last couple days. He’s doing fine. He’s just got to rehab, but he’s doing a lot of work on his lower half, core exercises, can’t do anything yet with his throwing arm, but he’s working out, he’s staying positive, which is good, as you know he’s still going to be shut down, but hopefully he’ll start throwing here fairly soon, and then we’ll build him up this winter.”
Luis García/Learning On The Job:
Mistakes like the ones Luis García made in Thursday’s loss to the Phillies are something you have to kind of expect when you’re running a 21-year-old infielder out there on a daily basis in the majors, and how a young player learns from his mistakes and moves on from them is just as important.
“He’s a young player, he’s going to have to keep working on it and keep growing,” Tim Bogar told reporters after the bench coach filled in as skipper in the finale with the Phillies.
“And he knows, we talk about it, he knows what he needs to do,” Bogar continued, “and big situation in the game and it just happened to show its head right there.”
García talked after the game about who he turns to in order to talk things through when he does make a mistake on the field, or things don’t go his way.
“Mainly I speak with Bogie,” the infielder said. “I also speak with Juan Soto, and my father.
“Every time after a game, or a play, something like this happens, I speak to all of them, and my dad as well, he advises me, they all do, they give me all advice, and basically learn from the experience, because that’s what it is, you learn from every experience and hope to get better.”
What kind of advice does the 22-year-old Soto offer his 21-year-old teammate?
“I mean, we just talk together. I just tell him just to work hard, it don’t matter where he’s at, don’t matter how he feels, just keeping working hard.
“You’re here in the big leagues, but you want to stay here, so just keep grinding, keep working hard, and I think he’s been doing it really well the last couple days.
“So that’s what I tell him mostly, but I know you’re a pretty good shortstop, but if you don’t work hard, you maybe don’t stay here, so you’ve got to work hard and you’ve got to want it.”