Davey Martinez started going through potential lineup configurations early this spring, then when he considered the possibilities again, once he knew what the roster was going to look like at the start of the season, he had a revelation.
“Yesterday I started jotting down lineups already, as I always do, and you know, our lineup is pretty good, you know,” Martinez said. “So I’m excited to get going, I’m excited to see these guys playing together every day.”
His message for the club heading into last night’s season opener was a simple one.
“My message today to them was to enjoy the journey, and focus on the journey, and not so much the destination,” he explained. “Our destination is to be 1 of 12 at the end of the year.
“But they’ve got to enjoy the day every day, and we’ve got to compete every day, but they understand that.”
Juan Soto, who’s hitting second in the lineup, so he gets as many plate appearances as possible this season, said he and his teammates are ready for a fight this season.
“We’re ready to compete,” the 23-year-old slugger said when asked about his thoughts with the organization at the start of a reboot but still trying to compete.
“Those guys in there,” he said of the players in the Nationals’ clubhouse, “... they’re hungry to win, they want to win. I think this is not a rebuild team for me, just a team to come to the league to compete and we’re going to try as best as we can to be in the playoffs this year.”
GM Mike Rizzo told the 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies that he’s hoping the club will surprise and shock those who don’t expect a whole lot from the Nationals this season, and Soto is on board with thinking as a team they are not in the least bit interested in hearing reboot or rebuild talk.
“This team is ready to go,” Soto said. “I think we have everything that we need to go to the playoffs. We’ve just got to give 100%, we just got to be healthy, and be out there every game. That’s the only things we’re going to need to be healthy and go out there and compete, but I think we have the right pieces to go out there and make it to the playoffs.”
His manager is expecting big things from the outfielder, who won the NL batting title back in 2020’s 60-game campaign, and finished second in voting for the NL MVP last season. It hasn’t gone to Soto’s head — all the success. He still came to Spring Training in West Palm Beach with the same approach he had the previous years.
“For one, Juan every Spring Training he comes in and wants to make the team, so that should tell you what kind of player he wants to be. Two is, the sky is the limit for him,” Martinez said.
“He always says he needs to get better at this, he needs to get better at that.
“And he’s always trying to get better, so you can’t put any numbers on what Juan can do, because he can do unbelievable things.
“For me, it’s about — and with him — I always talk to him about staying in the moment, and he’s good about doing that, and don’t ride the wave, stay consistent every day.”
Soto went 1 for 3 with a walk and his first home run of 2022 in the season opener last night, which the Nationals lost, 5-1.
“He’s really good,” Martinez said of his right fielder after the game.
“He knows the strike zone and he knows what balls he really can hit hard, so it was nice to see him get that first one out of the way on Opening Day and we’ll move on from there.”