Opening Day in D.C.:
Davey Martinez was happy to hear a couple of his players had been dismissing the idea of it being a rebuilding season in D.C. in 2022. That’s not how they’re thinking about.
“They sound like me,” Martinez told reporters before the 2022 season opener last night.
“It’s true. You don’t rebuild in the major leagues, you know, you compete every day at the highest level. There’s no rebuilding. And if you could look to see what [GM] Mike [Rizzo] and his group has done and what I’ve said that we needed to try to do, we’ve got a good core of veteran players with some young players that have the ability to do a lot of different things.”
The roster they assembled over the winter and whittled down to 28 this spring, is one the fifth-year manager is excited to see in action.
“I’m excited about this group. I really am. We got some veterans in that clubhouse that have played in the playoff games, that have done a lot of different things, but one is I like them because they could be mentors to some of our young players, so I’m excited about that as well, but they got the message from Day 1. That’s, ‘Don’t listen to the noise on the outside.
“‘Focus on the things on the inside, and go out there and play hard,’ and that’s something that I knew we’ll do every day.”
While there are young stars on the roster, there’s a veteran presence as well, on the field and in the clubhouse, that the manager thinks will help the process along as they try the best they can to compete for a spot in the postseason.
Martinez was asked before last night’s game if he thought of his club as a young team.
“For me it feels like a team that’s going to compete, and that’s what I love about it,” he said.
“We brought in — as we always do, we Mike [Rizzo] and I do our due diligence on the guys that we want to bring in and some of the guys that we want to bring back, and they’re competitors, so to get those guys back with the young guys that we have, we feel like we’ve done a great job of balancing both, and like I said, I really think that we’re going to go out there and compete every day.”
Before last night’s game, the Nationals played a video tribute to their one-time ace, who got dealt to LA last July and signed on with the New York Mets this past winter, agreeing on a 3-year/$130M free agent deal with Washington’s NL East rivals.
Max Scherzer’s former skipper, Davey Martinez, and teammate, Juan Soto, talked about now going against the starter as they will tonight.
“He’s going to try to strike me out and I will try my best to don’t strike out because I know he wants that really bad,” Soto joked, when asked about looking forward to facing the 37-year-old righty for the first time in a regular season game.
Martinez talked about what he’ll remember about his time together with Scherzer between 2018-21, which, of course, includes the 2019 season which ended with a World Series win.
“I’ve always said Max Scherzer is one of the best,” the manager said.
“Now he is wearing a different uniform, so for me to see him for the first time in that uniform is going to sting a little bit, absolutely, but the memories will never go away, that we’ve had together.
“He was a competitor, day in, day out, every single day. I’ve talked about that time and time again, even the days he didn’t pitch, he was competing amongst themselves, getting his teammates to be better, so that’s something that we’ll miss, but the game moves on.
“I talked a lot last year when we lost a lot of different guys, that that’s part of the game, and it’s going to happen periodically, but the game moves on, so I know we got guys in the clubhouse that are excited to face him, even though he was here for so many years, but like I said, he’s a New York Met now.”
Leaders in Nats’ Clubhouse Now:
Max Scherzer is gone. Trea Turner too. Ryan Zimmerman retired. The leaders in D.C. for the last few years are no longer part of the team, so who’ll step up to fill the leadership void?
“A leadership becomes — it’s more within a person,” Martinez said in advance of the first of 162 games to be played this season. “You can’t appoint someone to be a leader, but we do have quite a few. And you can tell. I saw a lot of people lead by example, a lot of people are very boisterous, but I’ll let that take care of itself.
“I know we had a guy here for many, many years in [Zimmerman] and we can bring his name up. He’ll be missed in the clubhouse, because he led by example, but when he did speak, everybody listened. So we have those guys in there. Honestly, I think one of our younger players, in Soto, he’s that guy too. He’s taken on a leadership role where he does it not only by example, but if he wants to say something he’s got the right to speak his mind and say it, and guys listen to him. So it’s kind of nice.”
Soto said that much like Zimmerman, he’s more of a lead-by-example guy than a vocal leader.
“For me, I’m just trying to be the same guy,” Soto explained when asked about taking on the role of a leader, even at just 23 years old.
“I know I have a couple coaches, teammates, telling me that I’ve got to be the leader. For me I always tell them, ‘I’m going to keep being the same rookie.’
“As a rookie to come into the league, to give my 100%, and for me, one way that I can show them is just play hard every day and follow the rules.
“That’s the only thing I can give to them. But for me, I won’t try to get on top of anybody, I don’t like that. If they need me to do it one day, I might do it. But I’m just going to keep doing the same thing. For me it’s going to be my same rule since 2018, just keeping being the rookie, keep following the rules, and try to help my team as much as I can.”