Davey Martinez put Lane Thomas (0 for 3, BB, K) in left field and hit him sixth in the season opener on Thursday night, with Victor Robles (0 for 2, 2 Ks) in center and batting 9th, but a night later, it was Yadiel Hernández in left and batting sixth with Dee Strange-Gordon in center field hitting ninth for the second game of four with New York’s Mets in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park.
“I wanted to get Yadi and Dee in a game fairly quickly, and I thought today would be a good day for them both to play,” Martinez told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman in his pregame press conference on Friday.
“We kind of like the match-up a little bit. But I want to try to get these guys involved early and get them at-bats to keep some of these guys going. As you know, Dee had a great spring training. Yadi started coming around at the end, hitting balls real hard. I want to make sure we continue to get them their at-bats.”
Following a 5-1 loss in the first game of the 2022 campaign, Martinez wanted to put points, er, runs, on the board, so he changed things up a bit and said if they do score some runs in the game, they can bring on defensive replacements.
“One, we’ve got to score runs,” Martinez said. “I think the way the lineup is set up, if we take the lead, we could obviously do something to get Vic back in the game.”
Robles, of course, has struggled in each of the past two seasons, and he finished up 2021 in the minors, playing at Triple-A with Thomas in center down the stretch after the trade which brought him to D.C. from St. Louis.
When it came time to pick the players for the 28-man roster at the end of Spring Training, Robles was included, and GM Mike Rizzo talked before the second game of the season on Friday night about what they saw from the 24-year-old outfielder that convinced them he was ready to return to the big league club.
“Defensively he’s playing much, much better,” Rizzo explained. “His throwing accuracy has improved, his routes and angles are better, we worked — the coaching staff and Davey worked — hard with his hitting mechanics and I think they’ve made improvements there to free up his swing a little bit and to get him back to that dangerous guy that we saw in 2019.”
Rizzo was clear though that they don’t want Robles walking on eggshells and worried that if he starts to slump he’s going to be pulled from the lineup or sent back to Triple-A.
“I don’t think he should be auditioning for a job, I don’t think any of them should be. You’ve got to go 100 MPH with your hair on fire, that’s how we want him to play and that’s what we expect him to do, and he has the talent, he has the skill set to be an everyday player in the big leagues. He’s proved it before in a championship-caliber season, in the most pressure situations you can be in, so we’ve seen it before and we have confidence that he can get back to that guy.”
Thomas and Robles are back in the lineup for the third of four with the Mets.