Josh Rogers made his second start of the season last night in PNC Park, in the spot Aníbal Sánchez was supposed to fill before he got off the plane from West Palm Beach, FL to D.C. with a cervical nerve impingement that landed the veteran starter on the 10-Day IL earlier this month.
Sánchez, 38, took a year away from the game in 2021, but returned to the Nationals he was with in 2019-20 this winter and made the club out of Spring Training, but there wasn’t a lot of information on how he has been progressing since landing on the Injured List.
Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez updated reporters on the work the starter is putting in as he works his way back when he spoke before last night’s game.
“He threw yesterday,” the skipper said. “A little flat ground. He said he felt better, so we got to build him up now. Now, he missed some time, so he’s off today, he’s strengthening, doing some strengthening stuff, so we’ll build him up and see where we get him.”
With a year off, a quick Spring Training, and now the time off at the start of the season, the right-hander will definitely need to get some work in before he’s back in the majors.
“More than likely,” Martinez said. “Because of the shortened Spring Training, we’ll see where he’s at, but he’s probably going to have to go and pitch somewhere and build him back up.”
Alcides Escobar’s first stolen base of the season on Friday night was also the Nationals’ first, leaving only two teams in the league without a stolen base this season (Atlanta and Boston).
From what the Nats’ manager told reporters before Saturday’s game, we probably shouldn’t expect many stolen base attempts from the club this season.
“You look at the way our lineup is really based — our lineup is more built to take our walks, and hit — try to hit doubles and homers,” Martinez said.
“But with that being said the bottom of the lineup needs to play the game a little bit, and we’ve got to start creating some things, but the most important thing though for me right now is to get these guys to swing the bat and get on base first.”
“But he had the green light yesterday,” the manager said of Escobar. “We told him that this guy [Mitch Keller] can be slow, and he picked a good pitch to run on and ran.
“And that was good, but we got to get those guys on base — you can’t steal first base, so, but once we get them on we can do a lot more things.”
It’s not just the Nationals (who stole 56 bases total in 2021, 23rd-most among MLB’s 30 teams), Martinez noted, but the game itself that’s different from when he played.
“It’s different. It’s a lot different now,” he said.
“There’s not as much value with base-stealing, as opposed to getting on base and having guys drive you in. We got to be smart about it. I just don’t want guys to get over there and run and take us out of a big inning. Especially when the eight or nine hitters gets on base and you got 1-2-3-4 coming up behind him, so we got to be real smart about what we do.”
César Hernández started the night on Saturday with hits in his first at-bat leading off for the club in five straight games, but as Martinez explained, they don’t necessarily want him to go running around the bases when Juan Soto, Nelson Cruz, and Josh Bell are behind him in the lineup.
“Absolutely. And he understands that, and he knows, and he’s pretty smart. I told him, I said, ‘You’re going to pick your spots, and I know it, but understand that with no outs or even one out, you got those guys coming up behind you, more than likely want him to swing the bat, less otherwise, whether it’s we think that it’s a base we feel like he really, really could steal, get to second base, and they’ll walk Juan, or they pitch to him, and then if not we got Nelson, especially if he’s swinging the bat well.”