Who’s Going To Play Short?:
Davey Martinez talked earlier this week about Luis García, (who came up as a shortstop, but has played mostly second in the majors the last two years, mainly because that’s where the need was for the Washington Nationals), playing short this spring as well as second as he is fighting for a spot on the Opening Day roster with veterans like shortstop Alcides Escobar and second baseman César Hernández.
“We got Escobar over there [at short], we got César at second, so I want [García] to really focus on playing some shortstop, and then we’ll see how he does,” Martinez said.
When he filled out his first lineup of the spring (which is probably as much about who is available, more than who’ll end up where), the Nats’ manager had Hernández leading off, playing second, with Escobar batting second and playing short.
“Alcides is going to play, he’s going to get the bulk of the playing time,” Martinez explained.
“But you know, Luis is going to play some shortstop, Luis will play some second base.
“[Ehire] Adrianza is going to play some shortstop. But you know, Adrianza is going to play a little bit of everywhere, that’s why we got him. He can play everywhere in the infield, he can play the outfield, he’s a switch-hitter, but I love having him here, but yeah, Alcides — right now, he’ll get the bulk of the games at short, and then we’ll go from there.”
Hernández hit 21 doubles and 21 home runs in 149 games and 637 plate appearances with Cleveland and Chicago (AL) last season, finishing the year a combined .232/.308/.386 line.
That OBP’s off a bit from his .345 career average, of course, but Martinez said on Friday he talked to the 31-year-old infielder about focusing more on getting on base than on power.
“We talked to him — I talked to him when we signed him,” he said. “And I told him, ‘I want you to focus more — he hit 21 home runs last year, so, but I told him, I said, ‘This year I want you to get back to the form of you being on base, a .360 on-base percentage. Hitting doubles, on occasion you’re going to drive the balls out, but if you get on base you’re going to score a lot of runs, and I really believe he can do that.”
García, who’ll turn 22 in May, came up out of necessity the last two seasons, and he now has two years of experience at a very young age, but with established options available this year the young infielder might get more time to develop.
“We’ve got to really understand that Luis is still very, very young. And he’s learned a lot, he’s been learning, he’s maturing,” Martinez said.
“But like I said, he’s going to get an opportunity. But we’ll see, I mean, if he comes to Spring Training, and like I said, he limits the mental mistakes, throwing the balls, his footwork, we’ll see where he’s at. But, Alcides did well last year and he really helped our club.
“He’s professional, as we all know, he’s a Gold Glover. So, you know, and he kept himself in good shape. I’m watching him now take ground balls, and you look at him and you still think that he’s 25 years old, and he has a lot of fun out there, so I’m not going to say that Luis is not going to — because it could turn out to be something else — with Luis maybe playing some shortstop here as well, but also playing some second base too, so we’ll see how it plays out. Like I said, I love Alcides, he’s a veteran guy, and I love Luis as well.
“But I want to make sure that Luis, when he’s in the big leagues, that he’s going to stay. I really don’t want him to platoon, I want him to play every day, and he did a lot better last year against left-handed pitching, which is good, so I want to see him consistently do the little things every day.”
Bell & Cruz:
Talking after Nelson Cruz’s 1-year/$15M deal with the Nationals was officially announced, the veteran slugger’s new manager, Davey Martinez, said everyone on the team would benefit in the upcoming season by having the DH in the lineup, but he singled out one returning Nats’ hitter he thought could really be affected by Cruz’s presence.
“You talk about [Juan] Soto, you talk about Cruz, for me the guy that to me who is really going to benefit and help too, is Josh Bell. I mean, all of a sudden you put Josh Bell with these two guys, I think he’s going to get better. I really [do].”
“I think the fact that if Josh hits behind Nellie, he gets to appreciate him, watch him work, his routine. That helps,” Martinez explained.
“A guy up there watching pitches, taking pitches, I think it’s going to help Josh a lot, plus the communication before the games. Nellie, like I said, he studies pitchers, he’s a student of the game, he knows a lot of different things, so it’s going to be interesting to watch those guys collaborate and talk before each and every series and each game, so it will be fun.
“Of course, I think he’s going to help Juan out tremendously. But I think he’s going to help out everybody. He stretches our lineup out really, really well, so like I said, I’m looking forward to those guys bonding with him, and him just being him. I’ve known him for many, many years, he’s a great teammate, unbelievable teammate, and he cares about competing and winning.”
Jake Noll Not Ryan Zimmerman:
Jake Noll played in the majors in 2019 and 2020, but the 28-year-old infielder didn’t get up to the majors at all last season, spending the entire run at Triple-A Rochester, putting up a .300/.346/.494 line, 28 doubles and 17 homers in 119 games and 474 plate appearances. It didn’t result in an opportunity last year, but the right-handed hitting and throwing infielder is back in West Palm Beach, FL this spring competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster, and the big league skipper in D.C. said he would be watching Noll closely.
“Obviously he’s had some good years with his bat,” Martinez said. “I view him as a guy that can do multiple things on the field, so just be consistent with playing defense, I mean, that’s a big part of it, but he’s done well. And also too, now with the DH, we’re going to keep a close eye on him and see if he can maybe — we’ve got him penciled in right now to be like a backup first baseman, maybe a left fielder. He’s going to get an opportunity this spring, but he can hit.
“I watched him already with his at-bats here, he’s got good bat-to-ball skills and hits the ball all over the field, especially against left-handed pitching.”