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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Josh Bell’s start, Victor Robles working hard + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability yesterday in PNC Park...

Robles Working And Playing:

Victor Robles, 24, is off to an 0 for 15 start this season, in what the club is hoping will be a bounce-back campaign for their six-year veteran, who’s K’d in six of 17 plate appearances, reaching base only via hit-by-pitch so far.

Robles has now played in six and started in five as the Nationals try to get his swing right, and find spots where he can have success as they build his confidence back up as well. It wasn’t a good matchup last night, according to his manager, Davey Martinez, with slider-heavy (44.1%) righty JT Brubaker on the mound for the Pirates in the series opener in PNC Park, so the outfielder sat out again.

“We look at all his data, and we know that Victor struggles against guys with good sliders,” Martinez explained, “so tonight, I felt like we’re just going to continue to work with him on his swing, get him some extra swings, and then get him back in there tomorrow.

“So we’re looking at all this stuff. I don’t want him to fall too far behind, I want to keep him fresh.

“He’s going to play, he’s in the mix, but I’m trying to get everybody some playing time out there, but we need Victor.

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

“We need Victor to be successful, not only defensively, but we want him to start hitting as well, and feel good about his hitting.”

How is the fifth-year skipper trying to balance getting Robles reps in game action so that he can put what they’re working on into practice, and get better at recognizing and hitting the sliders he’s struggled to hit, and not exposing him to some situations where he is less likely to succeed?

“It’s going to be a little bit different this year,” Martinez said, “because I don’t want him to get beat up right away. I want do this gradually, I want him to feel comfortable with his swing, so that he does learn how to hit the sliders, and lay off the sliders, but with that being said, today was just another day where we felt [Yadiel Hernández] and those guys had the best matchups. [Robles] is going to get another day to work on his swing, and then we’ll get him back out there.”

And how’s he handling a slow start in a season in which he and everyone in the organization wanted him to start strong and build confidence?

“He’s been positive, and we’ve been very positive with him as well. Like I said, we work with him, [Hitting Coach] Darnell [Coles] has been with him day in and day out. He is getting better, I think his swing is better. In BP there [are] more hard-hit balls when we watch him swing. He’s staying on top of the baseball, so we just got to continue to work with him.”

Bell Back In PNC:

As the Nationals noted in their tweet with the starting lineup for last night’s game, Nationals’ slugger Josh Bell went into this long-weekend series with a seven-game hit streak going in the early days of the 2022 campaign, with the 29-year-old collecting hits in each game that the club had played, going 9 for 26 (.346/.433/.615) with a double, two homers, three walks, and four Ks.

[ed. note - “Bell’s hit streak ended with an 0 for 3 game last night, though he did walk twice and score two runs in the loss.”]

Bell started slowly in 2021, his first season with the club following the Christmas Eve 2020 deal that brought him over from the Pittsburgh Pirates, landing on the COVID-IL out of the gate and slowly building the sort of season expected of him when he was acquired.

His manager with the Nationals, Davey Martinez, talked before Bell returned to his one-time home for a four-game series, about the work the switch-hitting first baseman has done this year to get off to the start he has thus far.

“I think — one thing I know for sure with him is he’s had an unbelievable attitude coming to the ballpark every day, on just taking care of the day,” Martinez told reporters in PNC Park.

“Not worrying about what happens in September or July or anything. I always talk to him about, ‘Hey, focus on today. Let’s win today and go from there.’ And he really has broken it down to, ‘Hey, I’m going to try to focus today, win my at-bat every at-bat, win the pitch, play good defense.’ And he’s been great at doing that. I give credit to him for actually really working on the mental side of the game for him and what makes him successful. Last year, as we all know, he started off rough because of what had happened, and then he came back and it took him a while to get going, and I think he learned and matured a lot from that and knowing what kind of player he can be.

“So he’s doing well, and like I said, he comes to the park with a positive attitude and doesn’t worry about getting ahead of himself, just worries about today and focuses on today.”

SHOCKED!:

How did the Nationals’ GM and manager react to Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga’s report earlier this week that the Lerner family is now, “exploring the possible sale of the Washington Nationals.”

Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning he was caught by surprise by the news.

“I was pretty surprised, yeah,” Rizzo said. “I was taken by surprise, by me and a lot of other people in the office. But, you know, it doesn’t affect what I do and what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish. [Managing Principal Owner] Mark Lerner and the Lerner family’s been such a supportive ownership group over the years. We’re going to do our thing, we’ve got our blueprint, and we’ve got our plan in place to do what we’re supposed to do, and that’s not going to change anything about how we run the team or handle our day-to-day business.”

“It all came — this news came as a shock to all of us,” Martinez said before the series opener in PNC Park last night.