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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Dusty Baker; facing the Astros again; and Josh Bell

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Friday afternoon in D.C.

Natstalgia:

The Astros returning to (and winning) in the nation’s capital was sure to stir up memories of the last series Houston and Washington played in Nationals Park, but a lot has changed and Davey Martinez, Mr. Go 1-0 today, isn’t much for looking back, or forward, remaining as he’s always saying, focused on the task at hand. But still, you knew the 2019 World Series would come up with the two clubs who faced off in the 115th Fall Classic facing off again in D.C. for the next three days.

“It’s definitely something that they’re coming back for the first time after 2019, but that’s — even though it seems — for me, I’ll never forget the memories, but it’s behind us. They got some new players, different team, we come in with different players as well, it’s two totally different ballclubs, so we got to go out there today and go 1-0 today,” Martinez said before the series opener with the Astros.

“We’re going to go out there and play baseball,” Martinez continued. “The guys that were here, they’ve been through it, they know it, and they understand it, and it was a great feeling, it really was, and a feeling that we’ll never forget, but today is a different ballgame.”

Getting to reconnect with his own former manager, and long-time friend Dusty Baker did mean a lot to the Nats’ skipper, however, and he talked about the influence Dusty and the other managers he played for and worked with have had on his approach to his job.

“I admire the way he goes about his business,” Martinez said, “and I’ve always — like I’ve said — when I became a manager and before I became a manager, I took a little bit of everybody, learned a lot from different people. I always mention Bobby Cox being one, as a coach with Joe [Maddon], learned a lot from him, and from playing for Dusty I learned from him, and it kind of molded me to what I wanted to be if I ever got an opportunity to manage, so for me it’s just about, one, how much Dusty respects and loves the game. I really feel like I love the game just as much, and respect the game just as much, and also how he treats people, and that’s something I’ll never forget about Dusty, how he treated me and my family.”

Martinez has treated Baker and his family well too.

MLB: MAR 20 Spring Training - Nationals at Astros Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bell Hits the Ball:

Josh Bell started this weekend’s three-game set with the Astros 39 for 113 (.345/.439/.513) in 32 games played in a month-plus this season, having, the Nationals highlighted in the notes for last night’s game, “reached base safely in 29 of 32 games this season.” It isn’t just a solid start in ‘22 for Bell, he’s been hitting the ball since mid-May 2021, after a slow start in D.C. in his first year with the team following a stint on the COVID-IL at the beginning of the season.

“Bell is hitting .299/.389/.513 with 27 doubles, one triple, 28 homers, 99 RBI(s), three hit by pitch(es), 76 walks[,] and 81 runs scored in 153 games since May 13, 2021,” the Nats wrote.

“He’s really, really trying to put the ball in play,” Davey Martinez said when asked about Bell’s success at the plate the last two seasons.

“I talked a while ago about how he’s not trying to do too much. He’s getting ready on time, which is a big thing.

“Almost every pitch he’s ready on time, and ready to hit the fastball, so kudos to him. He came to Spring Training wanting to cut down, he felt like if he could put the ball in play more, he could hit the ball hard and create better at bats, and he’s done that, and you can see the results, he’s up there in the league in hitting, but he’s still hitting the ball hard.”

MLB: Miami Marlins at Washington Nationals Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Bell’s .345 AVG at the start of play on Friday was the 4th-best in the majors, and he was 4th in OBP too (and 21st in SLG). So, not a typical all-or-nothing power hitter, exactly.

Which is a nice development for the switch-hitter and the Nationals, with Bell also walking (17) more than he’d K’d (15) through 134 plate appearances going into last night’s game.

“Look, I played with a guy that you think — he looked like he struck out at lot, but the guy hit .345-.350 every year,” Martinez said, “Frank Thomas. He put the ball in play. Sometimes it was ugly, and sometimes — what I say to Josh, ‘You’re going to get some ugly hits, but they’re hits all in all,’ and he appreciates that, and we’ll often joke around, and he goes, ‘That was an ugly hit.’ And I go, ‘What was the result? It was a hit.’ So, but it’s good for him, and he understands, and like I’ve said, when he moves the ball good things happen, when you strike out, the only thing you can do is walk back and go watch video and see what went wrong, so he’s really focused on just getting ready, and he wants to drive the ball, don’t get me wrong, but his two-strike approach is a lot better than it has been.”