DSG, Bell & Vic:
Dee-Strange Gordon made the Washington Nationals’ Opening Day roster (after not playing in the majors in 2021) and he played in three games early this season, even pitching once in a blowout, before he landed on the IL back on April 15th with an undisclosed illness. Before last night’s game, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters that their recently-turned 34-year-old, 11-year veteran was on his way to Triple-A Rochester to start a rehab assignment. It might take a while though, apparently.
“He came in yesterday and took some ground balls, and he got pretty tired quickly, so we’re going to have to build him up and then get him going, but as soon as we feel like he’s ready, and he’s ready, he’ll be back here,” Martinez explained.
Strange-Gordon wasn’t able to do much while he was out of action according to the Nats’ manager.
“He didn’t do much. With him, he’s built for speed and putting the ball in play, and stuff like that, so we’re going to get him to play some outfield, some middle infield when he’s down there, but I’ll stay in touch with Matt [LeCroy] and see how he’s doing every day, but I told him, and I talked to Dee and told him, ‘Hey, when you feel like you’re ready just let us know and we’ll keep eyes on you.”
The manager said they’ve missed what Strange-Gordon brought to the team this spring and in the first few games, so getting him back will inject some energy, hopefully.
“We miss him a lot,” Martinez said.
“We value what he can do for us coming off the bench, playing all positions. His speed. So we definitely have missed him, so like I said, I want him back as soon as possible, but yet I want to make sure that he’s ready.”
There was some good news on the injury front before the series opener with Miami in D.C. last night.
Josh Bell (who’s dealt with knee and hamstring issues in the last week) and Victor Robles (groin tightness) were both cleared to play following the off day on Monday and they got back in the lineup for the first of three with the Fish.
“They came in yesterday, worked out, they looked good, so they’re both back in there,” the manager said.
“We got to definitely keep an eye on Bell — because he’s got two injuries that we’re kind of worried about a little bit, one with his knee and the other one with his hamstring, so we’ll keep an eye on him. But Vic said he felt good, like he said, he thought it was a cramp, so he said he feels good today.”
Still TBD For Thursday, Apparently:
Davey Martinez still wasn’t ready to name his starter for Thursday’s finale with the Miami Marlins in D.C. as he prepared for the series opener on Tuesday night. It’s Patrick Corbin who should be going if he takes his turn on regular rest after struggling again to start in 2022, when he came in looking to bounce back from back-to-back down years in ‘20-21.
“We’re still TBD right now,” Martinez said. “He threw a bullpen today, I’ll talk to him, I’ll talk to [pitching coach Jim] Hickey and we’ll see. I know he wanted to work with some stuff on Corbin in his bullpen today. I have not yet talked to any of them and we’ll see what’s going on.”
Corbin gave up seven hits, three walks, and seven earned runs in 1 2⁄3 IP last time out when he faced the San Francisco Giants in Nationals Park last weekend, leaving him with an 11.20 ERA, a 4.45 FIP, 11 walks, 15 Ks, and a .381/.480/.524 line against through four starts and 13 2⁄3 IP early this season.
“He’s going to pitch every five days,” Martinez said in the immediate aftermath of the rough outing for Corbin against the Giants.
“His stuff is good,” the manager added.
“We just got to get him to understand what he needs to do with it consistency-wise, and like I said, for me it’s having him throw the balls down, not throw through the sinker, continue to let the ball work for him, and throw his sliders, and not try to bury his sliders neither. He can throw the down, over the strike zone — for me it’s more strike-strike-ball, than ball out of the hand.”
Ruiz Up In The Zone:
Keibert Ruiz, 23, started the series with the Marlins 6 for 18 (.333/.350/.444) with a pair of doubles in six games and 20 plate appearances through seven games on the homestand, and the backstop’s manager talked at length before last night’s matchup about what he’s liked from the young catcher at the plate in the last few weeks.
“So... when Keibert gets the ball in the zone, in the hitting zone, and gets the ball up, his contact rate is exceptional,” Martinez began.
“He has unbelievable bat-to-ball skills. We’re getting him to try not to chase down below the zone.
“When he does that, he hits the ball fairly hard, and he’s a young guy that’s very aggressive, so we’re trying to get him to look up throughout the whole count, it doesn’t matter if it’s 2-0, 3-0, 0-2, he needs to get the ball up and get pitches that he can drive.
“And Darnell [Coles, the Nationals’ hitting coach] is working with him. They do drills every day in the cage, and there’s some days where he’s really good, and really patient, and then there’s some days where he gets ahead of himself, because he sees the ball really well.”
On the year, Ruiz started the series with a .264/.273/.340 line, four doubles, and six Ks in 14 games and 55 PAs.
“The other thing too is with runners in scoring position, he gets overly excited to drive them in,” Martinez continued. “He wants to drive them in, which I love, he doesn’t want — whether he walks or not, but he’s a guy that wants to drive in the run, so we got to get him to be more patient with guys in scoring position, and get a good pitch to hit and accept his walks. He’s got such a good eye that he can accept his walks as well, but I love the fact that he goes up there, and he wants to be the guy. He wants to hit. He wants to drive in runs, but like I said, when he gets the ball up, he’s really good.”
Ruiz started the series with the Marlins 3 for 20 (.150/.143/.150) in 21 PAs with RISP early this season, after he went 7 for 28 (.250/.300/.321) with two doubles in 30 PAs, between LA and Washington, in 2021.
Martinez said it’s something Ruiz will get used to as he goes along in his career, but right now, he’s eager to make something happen and pressing.
“Yeah, it’s something that — he’ll learn. We’ve got another guy like that in [Maikel] Franco,” he said.
“Franco, when he gets the ball up, he’s dangerous. When he gets the ball down, it’s a whole lot of ground balls. And we’re trying to teach him to understand, ‘Hey, when you hit the ball up — exit velo is way better when the ball is up, and you make more solid contact when the ball is up.’ You put the balls in play now, but for us, ground balls are almost useless with him, because he just puts the ball down on the ground.
“So we’re talking to him a lot about — and here’s a guy that when he was really good, that’s what he did, so we’re trying to get him back to that, just say, ‘Get the ball up at all counts, and if it’s up and you swing, it doesn’t bother me a bit.’ When the ball is down and he’s, like I said, he’s got good bat-to-ball skills, it usually rolls over. That’s why we were seeing so many ground balls to third base the other day. I think he hit like four.
“So we got to get him to get the ball up as well.
“Same thing with him too [as Ruiz]. When he gets guys in scoring position, he’s letting it rip, he wants to drive them in, and like I said, I kind of like those guys.
“Eventually if they do everything right, and those two guys get the ball up, they will hit the ball hard.”