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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Juan Soto at the plate; Hunter Harvey on IL + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Friday...

Not Worried About Juan:

Davey Martinez didn’t have any criticism for Juan Soto after the 23-year-old slugger popped out, chasing a 1-2 cutter from Mark Melancon out of the zone to end Thursday’s series finale with the Arizona Diamondbacks, leaving the bases loaded in a 4-3 loss.

Martinez, who told reporters he’ll take his chances with Soto at the plate with a chance to win one, was asked after the loss what message he’d have for Soto when he talked to him about his approach in that final at-bat.

“Pat him on the back,” Martinez said, “and I’ll tell him the same thing I told you guys, ‘I can’t wait till you’re up with bases loaded again, and again, and again, more times than not he’ll come through.”

What was Soto’s takeaway from the at-bat?

“For me, just keep my strike zone, don’t worry about any of the calls that they make, just try to keep my swing [and] my eyes in the strike zone and don’t try to do too much,” he said.

Martinez talked before the series opener with the San Francisco Giants last night about how Soto, who is once again seeing the lowest percentage of pitches in the zone (39.2% Zone% in 2022 going into last night’s game) in the majors, stays ready to hit pitches he does get in the strike zone.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

“You know, I watched him take early BP yesterday, and he was absolutely crushing balls to left-center field,” Martinez said, “... and I told him that’s where he needs to be. I mean, he needs to really focus on staying up the middle, driving the ball to left-center. When he’s going really well that’s what he does, that’s when he’s at his best. But I also tell him that, hey, you’re [not] going to get pitched to quite a bit, but when you do get that pitch, you’ve got to be ready for it. It could be the first pitch, it could be the third or fourth pitch, you got to be ready for it, which he always is, you know, and so it happens yesterday that he got a pitch — kind of upper in the zone, but it’s a pitch that I’ve seen him hit and drive. I think he tried to do a little bit too much, so he’s got to stay within himself, and like I said, just drive the ball up the middle.”

Through 15 games before last night’s opener with the Giants, Soto was 13 for 50 on the year with a .260/.448/.480 line, two doubles, three home runs, 16 walks, and eight Ks in 67 plate appearances.

Martinez said he’s seen positive signs recently that Soto is rounding into shape at the dish.

“[On Wednesday], he took a curveball where he stayed back really well and hit a bullet to center field,” Martinez said. “That’s who he is, and I always said this. He’s going to hit home runs, and he’s going to drive the ball. I don’t want him to start thinking about it and thinking that he has to do it every time up, you know, just get a good pitch and try to hit the ball and stay in the middle of the field.”

Hunter Harvey To IL:

Before Thursday’s game the Nationals announced they placed right-handed pitcher Hunter Harvey on the 10-day Injured List with a right pronator strain, after the one-time Baltimore Orioles’ prospect (and 2013 O’s 1st Round pick) tossed 2 23 scoreless in his first year in D.C. after he was selected off waivers from the Giants this spring.

“He felt something last night,” Martinez said after Thursday’s game, “... and we asked him to go get an MRI, and he has a pronator strain, and we’re not going to mess around with it, and put him on the 10-Day IL and we’ll see how he feels after 10 days.”

Harvey had Tommy John surgery in 2016, and he dealt with oblique and lat strains in 2021, so the club was trying to handle the hard-throwing righty carefully, even before the injury concerns came up this week.

MLB: APR 11 Nationals at Braves Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“It’s tough,” Martinez said of the fact that he still got hurt. “But luckily it wasn’t anything more serious than that, and hopefully with a little rest get him going again and get him back.”

Harvey told reporters before last night’s game that he tried to pitch through a similar issue before and ended up making it worse, so he was glad he spoke up and said something this time when he didn’t feel right.

His manager was happy the 27-year-old reliever spoke up too, whereas others in the past have not.

“I talked to him last night after the game for a little while,” Martinez said, “and I think over the past years he was reluctant to ever say anything about his injuries, and it might have cost him a few months here and there, but I’m glad he was smart enough to say he felt something, and I told him, ‘You know what that’s called? Maturity.’ You know? If you’re hurt, you’re hurt, and we have people here who could help you get better sooner than later, so he was glad that he said something and he’s very hopeful that it’s nothing major and that he can come back and help us as soon as possible, which would be great.”

Ask For Cade; Get Stephen & Joe:

MASN’s Byron Kerr reported on Twitter last night that top pitching prospect Cade Cavalli, who hadn’t pitched since 4/14, was set to return to the mound for Triple-A Rochester this Sunday, and FBB’s David Driver talked to a source who told him Cavalli, “... is healthy and threw [a] side session Thursday,” in preparation for Sunday’s start.

Davey Martinez didn’t have any information on Cavalli when he was asked before last night’s game, but he did update reporters on two pitchers currently throwing in West Palm Beach...

Washington Nationals Workout Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

“[I’ve] got nothing [on Cavalli],” Martinez said, “but I will definitely find out for you. I spent a lot of time today talking about Joe Ross and [Stephen Strasburg]. Those guys are throwing bullpens, so it’s good. Hopefully by next week if things go well they’ll start throwing some [live bullpens], so they’re progressing well.”

Strasburg, who is still building after surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome last season, and a short ramp-up in Spring Training, “... threw 27 pitches, and I think it was about the same for Joe,” Martinez added, with Ross recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow after he had a partial tear of his UCL last summer.