Where to find the positives in the midst of a 6-15 start, and an eight-game losing streak?
That streak was only at six Ls in a row when Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke with 106.7 the Fan in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning and was asked for his positive takeaways from the first month of the 2022 season.
“Some of our young players are progressing as we hoped and thought they would,” Rizzo said. “You saw last night with Josiah Gray striking out 10 guys, getting into the sixth inning, you can see the progression on this guy. He’s got a chance to be a real force for us down the road, and I think you can see he’s learning something and improving each and every time out there. Same with [Joan] Adon and [Keibert] Ruiz and the young group of guys that we’ve got. I think that’s the biggest positive I’ve taken out of the season.”
Manager Davey Martinez talked before the second consecutive loss to Miami’s Marlins on Wednesday night about his club pressing as losses have piled up over the last few weeks.
“I started seeing some of the pressure a couple days ago,” Martinez explained, “so I’ve had conversations with guys to kind of relax a little bit, and don’t chase the game. Just go out there and try to have fun. You can’t hit a five-run homer, you know. Just go out there, see pitches, get on base, take your walks, do the little things, but yeah, when you start losing 4-5 games in a row you start trying to create a little bit more than what we’re capable of creating. We need to play good solid fundamental baseball.”
There is help on the way at some point this season, with rehabbing starters Joe Ross and Stephen Strasburg progressing in their respective rehab programs at the team’s Spring Training complex in West Palm Beach, FL., and there’s help down on the farm, where Luis García is giving Triple-A pitchers nightmares (.360/.407/.613 line with three doubles, two triples, and four home runs through the first 17 games with the Rochester Red Wings), and top pitching prospect Cade Cavalli is working towards making it up to the majors for the first time.
When will we see the 21-year-old shortstop or the hard-throwing righty in the majors?
“We know [García is] the future at shortstop,” Rizzo told the Junkies.
“We recognize that [shortstop Alcides Escobar] is struggling at the big league level and Luis is thriving at the minor league level offensively, but I want to make sure that he’s prepared to play all facets of the game in the big leagues when he gets here, because when he gets here he’s going to play every day, and we’re going to rely on him because he’s a big part of the future.”
As for Cavalli? The 23-year-old righty has given up 12 runs in three starts and 12 IP early this season after working his way up from High-A to Triple-A in 2021 and making a strong case for a spot in the Opening Day rotation this spring, though he was eventually sent down to the top minor league affiliate before the opener earlier this month.
“He pitched Sunday,” Rizzo told the Sports Junkies this week.
“He pitched four good innings, I think he gave up four runs, or something like that, struck out a couple, but he’s right where we want him to be. He’s learning his craft every day and we’re just trying to get him consistent innings and control his innings so we make sure that he has innings left when we decide to reach for him.”
Barring injuries, setbacks, or struggles, we should see the Nationals’ top pick of the 2020 Draft in D.C. at some point in the near future.
“He’s a big part of the future that we’re looking for here in Washington,” Rizzo said, “and I think that you’ll see the day in the not-so-distant future when you’ll run out 4-5, 23-and-younger starting pitchers for us in the future when you’ve got Adon and Gray and Cole Henry and Cavalli and the rest of these guys that are just on the cusp of getting to the big leagues and being performers for us.”
So… when might we see an influx of some more of these young prospects come up from the minor league system to help out in the majors?
“These guys — player development has no clock,” Rizzo said.
“Everybody is on their own timetable, and we’ve got an individual plan for each and every guy, and the plan can’t be rushed. And you can’t say just because of chronological age you belong in X-level, the performance and the development of each player will dictate where they go.”