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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Yadiel Hernández in left and in 2022; Keibert Ruiz and his bruised knee + more...

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Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Tuesday in Atlanta...

Yadiel Hernández in 2022:

In his last 20 games (15 starts) and 66 plate appearances, Yadiel Hernández was in a little bit of a slump going 14 for 62 (.226/.273/.435) with two doubles, a triple, three home runs, four walks, and 15 Ks over that stretch, which took him from .298/.361/.420 on the season, down to .275/.333/.425 heading into last night’s series opener with the Atlanta Braves. It’s a small sample, of course, with some hard hit balls in those games, and a 7 for 22 streak in there as well, so what if anything is going on at the plate with the 33-year-old outfielder over the last 20?

“I just want to see him get back — I’ve talked a lot with him the last few days about getting on top of the baseball again,” Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said in his pre-game Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday.

“I thought every now and then he gets underneath the ball. You saw he hit a line drive off the fence the other day, to left-center field, that’s who he is, and he hit another ball to right field, lined out to right field. He just needs to stay on top of the ball, get ready early, when he does that, he’s a good hitter. For a short period of time, he’s got seven home runs, drove in some runs for us, but he hits the ball hard and he has good at bats, but he’s done well.”

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Hernández had hit six doubles, a triple, and the seven home runs his manager mentioned in a total of 91 games and 213 PAs this season. Martinez has talked often this season, however, about the work the 33-year-old outfielder has done to improve on defense.

“The other thing I told you is that he’s got continue to get better out in the outfield,” he said again on Tuesday afternoon.

“Yesterday he made an unbelievable play in left-center field at the end of the game,” Martinez added.

“And he’s working on it, so I’m proud of the way he’s going about his business and the way he’s going about trying to help us win.”

There is something of a youth movement going on in D.C., so where does Hernández fit in the Nationals’ plans going forward?

“You know what, I think this guy has potential,” Martinez said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with the DH, no DH in our league, but I think he has potential to either play DH or play left field for us coming up next year and give us good at bats, especially against right-handed pitching.”

[ed. note - “FWIW, as we noted a few weeks back in a story on Hernández, he’s hit lefties a bit better this year than righties, actually, with a .308/.368/.558 line in 57 PAs vs LHPs this season, going into the game on Tuesday, versus a .262/.321/.376 line in 156 PAs vs RHPs.”]

“As you know, he plays against right and left and he has good at bats [against both], but if he can continue to do what he’s doing,” Martinez concluded, “he could help us win some games here in the future.”

Hernández did his best to help the Nationals win last night’s game, with a game-tying, 3-run home run off lefty Tyler Matzek in the top of the seventh, and a sliding catch out in left field.

“Like I said, he’s definitely improving,” Martinez said of Hernández’s work in left after what ended up an 8-5 loss, “and he’s working hard at it, and that’s something that we pushed him on all year long, from Spring Training on is to become a better outfielder and he’s done a lot better.”

Keibert Ruiz’s Bruised Knee:

Keibert Ruiz fouled a pitch off his knee in the first game of two with the New York Mets in D.C. on Saturday, and the 23-year-old catcher, who was called up to the majors after he’d played some at Triple-A once he was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline on July 30th, hadn’t played since ... before got a pinch hit opportunity last in last night’s game.

Before the series opener in Atlanta, Martinez provided an update on the projected future No. 1 backstop in the nation’s capital.

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

“He’s still going to be day to day,” the manager said. “He’s going to go out there today and perform all early activities, he’s going to go catch in the bullpen, take BP, he’s going to run a little bit. The swelling has gone down a little bit, he’s still got a little swelling.

“So, you know, if everything goes we’ll he’ll be available off the bench today, and then we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

Ruiz, as mentioned, did get a pinch hit opportunity in the first of three in Truist Park.

So is he good to go tomorrow if needed?

“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. I mean, the biggest thing is him squatting behind the plate, so he’ll come tomorrow and get his work in and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

The Mason Thompson Project:

Mason Thompson, acquired from the San Diego Padres along with infielder Jordy Barley in the deadline deal that sent Daniel Hudson to the left coast, walked the first batters in each of the two innings he threw in New York on Sunday, but the hard-throwing right-hander did toss two scoreless frames. His first leadoff walk earned him a visit from Nats’ pitching coach Jim Hickey.

“Mason, yesterday, after walking the leadoff hitter, had a conversation with Hickey, and next thing you know he’s throwing 95-97 and throwing the ball down and getting ground balls,” skipper Davey Martinez said before Monday’s series finale with the Mets.

“That’s who he is, he needs to learn that that’s who he is.”

MLB: AUG 20 Nationals at Brewers Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

That’s something the fourth-year skipper has tried to stress with Thompson since the sinker-balling right-hander (who is throwing his sinker 89.6% of the time this season, at an average of 96.2 MPH), joined the big league club.

“I talk to him a lot,” Martinez said, “and I actually talk to him about — so a lot of our pitchers, relief pitchers, they throw flat ground every day, and I wanted him to incorporate, to go out after he throws his flat ground and gets loose, to go out on the mound and throw 10 pitches, and just throw at 75%, but throw pitches where he wants to work on his location, keeping the ball down and out of 10 pitches, see how many balls he can throw in the location he wants to throw them in and then we’ll go from there.”

The positive thing, the skipper stressed, with the 23-year-old right-hander, who has a 3.38 ERA in 13 13 IP since joining the Nationals, is that he’s receptive, and as Martinez said, he’s willing to learn.

“This kid is willing to learn,” Martinez told reporters. “He was a starter. This is his first time pitching in the bullpen. He shows signs where he can be outstanding, he really can.

“We’re going to continue to work with him. He’s a guy that throws 95+, and we are going to work on his breaking ball and his slider, and hopefully he becomes a guy that we can count on in the bullpen.

“He’s done some good things though. I really like him, I love his attitude, but he’s willing to try anything, and willing to try anything to get better.”

Is Thompson the only reliever he wants throwing off the mound in addition to his work on flat ground?

“There’s certain guys that we want them to do their work on the mound. And there’s certain guys that we don’t,” he said. “He is one guy that we want him to actually get on the mound and work on his mechanics, one, and location of his two-seamer.”