Nelson Cruz Leaves loanDepot:
Nelson Cruz, the Nationals’ 41-year-old, 18-year veteran DH was starting to pick things up at the plate recently, as the club highlighted in their pregame notes for last night’s matchup in Miami.
“[Cruz] has hit safely in 7 of [his] last 9 games: 11-for-33 (.333) with 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 6 R,” in that stretch, the Nationals noted, and he was originally penciled in as the DH for the visiting team in loanDepot park, but he was scratched late with an illness according to his manager, Davey Martinez.
Reporters on the scene in the Marlins’ home noted they’d seen Cruz leave the clubhouse with a mask on, and as Martinez later acknowledged, they just wanted to get him out of the stadium and away from his teammates until they can figure out what’s wrong.
“We might have a lineup change. He didn’t feel too good. I didn’t want him around the other boys, so I’m going to talk to our trainers after this, and we’ll figure out what’s going on,” the fifth-year manager explained.
With Cruz unavailable, Yadiel Hernández, who was originally going to play left field, and hit 5th in the lineup, moved to the DH and cleanup spots, with Lane Thomas starting in left.
Victor Robles started in center field.
Martinez has talked recently about needing to keep running Hernández out there in left, as the 34-year-old slugger has been on fire at the plate, having, “hit safely in 10 of his last 13 games, [while] going 18-for-48 (.375) with five doubles, two homers, 12 RBI, four walks, one stolen base and eight runs scored,” as the Nationals noted in their pregame notes, so it has been hard to take him out and get Thomas in, with Robles playing solid defense in center as he continues to work on things at the plate.
But as Martinez said, Lane gets it.
“He understands, and I told him I’m going to try to get him out there as many times as I can,” the manager explained. “Right now, because Yadi is hitting so well, we got to keep him in the lineup, he stretches our lineup out pretty good right now, but [Thomas] is going to get opportunities, like I always tell these guys, everybody gets chance to play so he’s got to stay ready.”
Thomas talked often late last season about what getting consistent at-bats did for his game after he came over from St. Louis at the trade deadline last July, but with sporadic starts for him so far this season, Martinez stressed the importance or staying sharp for when you get a chance to play.
“Yeah, he absolutely has to stay ready,” the manager told reporters in Miami, “... and with that being said, it’s not just about the hitting, it’s about his defense, playing left, playing center, and just keep himself ready to go. I mean, I always tell these guys you never know what’s going to happen. And he got off to a slow start, he started swinging the bat a little bit better, but I told him, ‘Just stay ready, we’ll get you out there, when you go out there, just play hard.”
Hernández, Thomas, and Robles will get their share of starts, Martinez said, and he’s making decisions on a daily basis based on who’s going well and who the club matches up against.
“Right now between the three of those guys, we’ll — I’ll match up the best that I can, but they’re all going to get a chance to play. I noticed with Yadi, after 4-5 days, we may have to give him a day off, but we’ll see how that works out, but with Victor, I got to give Victor an opportunity to play, and play almost every day. I try to match him up, try to give him days off where I feel like Lane is a better matchup, but they’re both going to play.”
Alcides Escobar, who missed time last week with an issue with an infected fingernail, was in two games of three with the Astros this past weekend, but Dee Strange-Gordon started the series opener with the Marlins last night.
“It’s going to be like a day-to-day thing,” Martinez said before penciling Escobar in Sunday, “... but he said he woke up today and he felt a lot better, he swung the bat a little bit and he said it feels good.”
Escobar went 1 for 3 in the 8-0 loss to the ‘Stros, and got a night off on Monday. Martinez told reporters the decision-making on short right now is based on a couple of factors, but Escobar’s finger is definitely one of them.
“I think a lot has to do with, one, his finger. It’s still bothering him a little bit, and a chance to get Dee out there, who’s done well, and is actually, for me, surprisingly playing a really good shortstop for us, so I want to get him out there a little bit more. Like I’ve said, when Dee gets on base, he makes things happen, so they’re both going to get playing time.”