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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Stephen Strasburg & Joe Ross; Nelson Cruz in the clubhouse + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Saturday...

Stephen & Joe:

Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross have both been on the same schedule for a while, which probably makes it easier for the folks handling their respective rehabs down in West Palm Beach, FL. Both starters threw two innings in simulated games on Friday.

Strasburg threw 27 pitches, and hit 92 on the radar gun according to what manager Davey Martinez told reporters yesterday, and Ross threw 33 pitches, and got up to 95 MPH.

Ross underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in March, after he was shut down last August with a UCL sprain in his throwing arm.

Strasburg had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome last summer, after he had surgery for carpal tunnel neuritis in 2020, which limited him in the follow-up to his World Series MVP run in ‘19.

“They’re feeling really good. We hope that continues,” Martinez said yesterday.

Though his optimism was of the cautious variety, Martinez said he will be following closely as Strasburg and Ross progress through their throwing programs and try to work their way back.

Washington Nationals Workout Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

“We’re definitely going to keep an eye on both of them,” he said, “but for right now if things keep progressing the way it is, it’s almost like a Spring Training build-up, and for us that’s great news, that they can get out there every five days. We’ll get them ready, hopefully 6-7 starts, and then we’ll see where they’re at.”

“The biggest thing right now, like I said, they’re feeling better, they’re feeling really good, so we hope that continues.”

And though it was a valiant effort, trying to get Martinez to discuss what the eventual return of either, or both, of the two starters would mean for the Nationals’ rotation was doomed to fail.

“My focus right now is on the guys that we have really,” Martinez said, “... and trying to get them better, especially our young guys. Try to get them to compete every five days here.

“As we get closer — we’ll start seeing how this all plays out, but for right now, we’ve got to focus on today and we’ll go from there. Things change in six weeks, 6-7 weeks, so we’ll just focus on what we need to do today to win today.”

Martinez Predicts Future:

Discussing their struggles scoring runs after the Nationals’ 6-1 loss in the series opener with the Astros, Davey Martinez said he saw some positive signs on Friday night. He did say he wanted to see his hitters get more aggressive in their at-bats though, after they connected for eight hits, all singles, and went 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and eight left on in the loss.

“I think we got to be a little bit more aggressive early in the count, and be ready to hit,” the fifth-year skipper explained. “Just be ready to hit. And that will come, you know? We’re missing some pitches we should be hitting right now, but like I said, you know, we’re hitting the ball really good, and we’re still getting hits, but we’re not impacting the baseball, so we need to do better with that.”

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

“I thought we had good at-bats,” he added.

“We hit some balls good, we just couldn’t collectively hit balls in a row, you know, where we could do something.”

“We got to get back to grouping up a bunch of hits,” he said at another point in his post-game press conference, “and some of our big boys hitting the ball out of the ballpark.

“That’s what we need. But like I said, you saw these guys play till the end of the game, and they played hard.”

On Saturday night, Yadiel Hernández hit a 2-run single to start the scoring in the bottom of the first, and then hit a three-run home run in the third, before Nelson Cruz hit a three-run double to center in the fourth, and Maikel Franco hit a two-run home run in the fifth, as the Nationals jumped out to a 9-3 lead after five with the Astros in D.C.

Cruz Finding Swing, Mentoring?:

As the Nationals mentioned in their pregame notes for last night’s game, Nelson Cruz had, “... hit safely in 6 of last 7 games: 8-for-25 (.320) with 2 HR, 2 RBI, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 4 R,” going in to the 2nd of 3 with the Astros in D.C., but even before he’d started to heat up at the plate, the 41-year-old, 18-year veteran was doing what he could to help his struggling club in any way he could according to his manager.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

“He’s been awesome,” Martinez said before Saturday night’s game. “I mean, forget about his early struggles — which right now he’s swinging the bat way better, and I really believe his swing is a lot better and it’s coming — but he’s been really involved since he’s been here, from Spring Training on, with teaching, and just kind of being a really good teammate, a mentor to some of our younger players and veteran guys. This guy communicates really well with everybody. He’s been awesome to be around, he’s been a great teammate. He’s a voice in that clubhouse, so it’s been really good. And during the games this guy is very intuitive with what’s going on. He’s watching pitches, he’s looking on the iPad, even other players’ at-bats, our players’ at-bats, and kind of going over what he sees as well with the hitting coaches, so he’s awesome.”