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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Donovan Casey, Joshua Palacios, Victor Robles + more...

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

Donovan Casey To D.C.; Joshua Palacios To Rochester:

Davey Martinez is not able to say what’s going on with Dee Strange-Gordon, who is sick and on the Injured List, with no details provided by the team.

“He’s better. Like I said, I can’t really talk about much, but he’s doing better,” Martinez said in his pregame press conference on Friday afternoon in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.

The good news? No one else with the team is going on the Injured List right now.

“No. Everybody’s here. I just saw Donovan [Casey] a little while ago, so he’s here, excited to be here, it’s his first time, so we’ll see if I get him in there somehow.”

Casey, of course, is the outfielder who was part of the return the Nationals received when they dealt Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to LA for a package of Dodgers’ prospects at the trade deadline last July 30th.

Why was Casey the one who got this opportunity with Strange-Gordon unavailable?

“He’s done well [at Triple-A Rochester],” Martinez said. Casey was 6 for 24 (.250 AVG) with two doubles, two triples, and a home run in six games before he got the call to meet with the team in the Steel City.

Surprise Saguaros v. Salt River Rafters Photo by Jill Weisleder/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“He’s got a few extra base hits down there, and he can play defense, he can run and steal a base, but he can play all three outfield positions, and right now that’s somebody we need.”

Martinez was asked if he worried Casey, like Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz before him, could potentially press and try to prove himself worthy of being included in a trade for the likes of Scherzer and Turner?

“Yeah, you know for him it’s just hey, relax and have fun, and I told him, I said, ‘You’ve had some good at-bats in Triple-A, and continue to do that when you get some playing time.

“Get your work in every day, the stadiums are all going to be new to him, make sure you get your fly balls everywhere, and work with [Hitting Coach Darnell Coles] on what you were working on down there [at Triple-A], and when I get you in the game, just have good at-bats and relax and have fun.”

New Outfielder Joins Organization:

Shortly after the Nationals officially announced Dee Strange-Gordon’s move to the IL, and the decision to call up Donovan Casey, the club reported on Twitter they claimed Joshua Palacios off of waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays and optioned the 26-year-old to Triple-A Rochester.

Palacios, a 2016 4th Round pick by the Jays, debuted in the majors in 2021, playing in a total of 13 games, over which he was 7 for 35 (.200 AVG), but he missed two months with a hand injury he suffered last May, and played in just 32 games total last season between minor and major league action, after not playing at all in 2020 (with no minor league season due to the pandemic).

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

What do the Nationals like about him?

“I know his uncle [Rey Palacios],” Martinez said.

“He was a catcher. Played in the big leagues. yeah, good kid. Really good kid. But knows how to play the game.

“Left-handed hitter, plays all three outfield positions. I know he had a good Spring Training, but he became available and we picked him up.”

Victor Robles Is Going to Play:

In his explaining the decision to keep Victor Robles on the bench in the series opener in PNC Park on Thursday night, Davey Martinez pointed to the outfielder’s struggles hitting sliders as one of the reasons he held him out against a slider-heavy starter in JT Brubaker.

“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.”

But when the lineup for Friday night’s game was released, Robles was not part of it.

Robles has started in just five of the first eight games this season, as the club tries to get him back to the player he was coming up through the minors, and early in his big league career, before he had trouble at the plate in each of the past two seasons.

“We’ve been working with Victor, and he’s been coming in early to hit, and I wanted to give him these two days to work with [Hitting Coach] Darnell [Coles]. He’s been swinging a lot, and we talked to him today, and he swung the bat really well today in early BP, so I told him, I said, ‘Be ready to play today if we need you, but tomorrow, you’ll play, and you’ll play for the next two days, and then we’ll see where he’s at,” Martinez explained.

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

“But like I said, it’s something that we’ve been working with him in Spring Training ... He is getting better, but Darnell wanted just to work with him and try to get him ready, because I don’t want him to get frustrated by the outcome, and that’s something that concerns me a little bit. I don’t want him to start chasing hits, I just want him to have good at-bats. I want him to get comfortable — and he’s getting there, and he’s feeling a lot better, so tomorrow he’ll get a chance to play tomorrow.”

The work they continue to do, Martinez said, is what they’ve been working on since the start of Spring Training, tweaking his mechanics at the plate, and reinforcing those changes in an attempt to get him going.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Martinez said.

“So, for right now we’re getting to the point where he’s not thinking about where his hands need to go or get back or anything. Now he’s actually seeing the ball and putting good swings on every ball, and that’s — like I said, today was a lot of velo. We had [Bullpen Coach] Ricky Bones throw to him, and he throws BP fairly hard, so it was good for him to get out there and make sure to work on his timing and get his hands up and get him above the ball.”