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Washington Nationals’ Davey Martinez on finding innings for A-bullpen arms with all the club’s losses...

Davey Martinez talked again over the weekend about trying to keep his A-bullpen arms sharp and ready to hold late leads... when they get them.

Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Davey Martinez talked in late April about the difficulty of finding the right spots for his A-pen relievers, when the Nationals haven’t had too many leads to protect late in games in the first weeks of the 2022 campaign.

In order to keep back-end relievers Kyle Finnegan and Tanner Rainey sharp when there are not too many hold or save opportunities, Washington’s fifth-year skipper explained, he has to occasionally send them out to just get work so they don’t get rusty.

“I talked to [Rainey] and Finnegan both about their usage and playing,” Martinez said at the end of the first month of the season, “and Tanner especially. Tanner has always come up to me and says he can’t sit four or five days without getting on the mound, so that’s something that we’re very conscious of. I think Finnegan, he doesn’t have to pitch quite [as] often, but he likes to pitch.”

Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

“Rainey just needs to go out there, and he says, ‘I just don’t have no feel when I’m sitting five or six days,’” Martinez explained, “so we got to make sure that we get him out there even if it’s not a save situation. And there’s days too where I told Finnegan and Rainey both, the matchups for me — I told Rainey the other day, ‘Hey, we might need you in the eighth inning, because the matchup is — that’s where we need you to pitch,’ and he said, ‘I’m ready for whenever you need me, whether it’s seventh, eighth, ninth, whatever,’ and Finnegan is the same way.”

Martinez said he’s talked to the relievers frequently, explaining to them how it’s necessary to maintain the same level of focus on the mound regardless of the situation they pitch in, so that you’ll be ready for high-leverage spots which have been few and far between in the first two months.

“Rainey yesterday, after he came out of the game, we talked for a little bit, and I asked him, I said, ‘In that situation, what are you thinking?’” Martinez said after the reliever got work in a non-save situation, “... because we don’t have the lead. And he said, ‘That to me is like a save.’ He said, ‘We’re still down a run, but I’m trying to keep the game where it’s at.’ So it’s kind of interesting the mindset that they have, but they understand, and I try to tell all these pitchers, no matter when you come in the game, that inning is a save opportunity for all you guys, and that’s the way I want you guys to look at it, so when the opportunity does arise for these guys, they know.

“It doesn’t matter what the score is, what the outcome is, but your job is to get three outs, and try to get three quick outs. And they understand that. I know it’s different, it’s a different beast pitching in the ninth inning, we all know that, but I think at some point in time, everybody had to learn pitching in the sixth inning, pitching in the seventh inning, pitching in the eighth inning, in order to get that spot to be the closer or that high-leverage guy, and I think Rainey and Finnegan understand that really well.”

Rainey, the closer for the Nationals early this season, has had just one save opportunity over the four weeks since he converted the first three opportunities he had, and he blew the lead in that outing, giving up three hits, a walk, and three runs on the road in Anaheim.

Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It was six days between Rainey’s appearance against the LA Angels and his outing in the 13-6 win over the Houston Astros on Saturday night, which Martinez explained in his pregame press conference the next morning was a situation where he just had to get the reliever out there regardless of the score.

“You know it’s difficult,” Martinez said before the series finale with the ‘Stros on Sunday.

“Because all of a sudden you’re in a close in a game and you want to put him out there, just say it’s two days, three days in a row, but you’ve got to pitch him. But yesterday, we talked to him before the game and said, ‘Hey, look it’s going to be your sixth day, so you’ve got to get out there.’ And he was fine with it. I asked him today, and he said, ‘I’m good to go.’ And he said, ‘If you need me for the next day I’ll be good to go.’ But he wants to get out there. Same thing with Finnegan. I talked to Finnegan today, and he feels like he needs to get back out there today, so hopefully we got the lead and we can use both those guys.”

Martinez also stressed how he’s got to pick spots which work in a particular game, but also with an eye on potential future matchups.

Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

“We try to — for me, I try to get them not to face the middle of the lineup, because that’s probably where if we need them most it’s probably the bulk of their best hitters between him and Finnegan,” he said.

“Yesterday was just a matter of getting him out there and not letting him face what we believe he might have to face if the game is 3-1 today and we’ve got the lead.

“So that’s a bit of a challenge to get him ... but we also don’t want to put him out there too early and then all of a sudden something happens where we do really need him, so we thought yesterday was a perfect opportunity to get him in the eighth inning.”

Martinez got Finnegan some work in Sunday’s game, sending him out in the seventh, with the score 7-0 in the Astros’ favor, and the righty tossed a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and striking out two.