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Washington Nationals news & notes: Waiting for Luis García; Stephen Strasburg & Joe Ross updates + more...

Highlights from the Nationals’ media availability on Wednesday...

Luis García’s Continued Development:

Regardless of what you might think about Luis García remaining at Triple-A while he’s put up big numbers offensively, the Nationals have insisted from the start he will remain with Washington’s top minor league affiliate until they think he’s ready to play every day in the majors again.

GM Mike Rizzo held the line when discussing the continued development of the recently-turned 22-year-old infielder with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday.

It’s still about his progress and ability to handle the role of an everyday shortstop in the majors.

“We see him as a long-term answer at shortstop,” Rizzo told the Junkies of the infielder who had a .333/.390/.601 line, five doubles, four triples, and eight homers over 33 games and 154 plate appearances through Wednesday night.

“He was signed and developed as a shortstop. We moved him in the big leagues because we had Trea Turner and we needed a second baseman at the time,” the GM explained.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at Washington Nationals Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

“He showed that he could handle the position over there, but Luis García is an exciting player, and he’s going to be an impactful guy for us in the near future.”

Like just after May 25th in the near future? Kidding. [winks at audience] Rizzo went on to stress, or more accurately reiterate, that it’s all about García’s continued development.

“We just want to make sure he’s right at shortstop, comfortable, before we bring him to the big leagues,” the GM in D.C. said. “The last thing we want to do is to bring him to the big leagues and have him struggle defensively, because you know how it is: when you struggle on one side of the ball, the other side is always affected, so we want him up here comfortable, because once he gets here he’s playing every day at shortstop and that’s what we’ve told him and that’s what he’s preparing for, and when he’s ready to do that, we will certainly bring him up.”

So how is he progressing on the defensive end at short?

“Yeah, I think that you see these little nuances at shortstop which is probably, in my opinion the second-toughest defensive position to play ... it’s the captain of the infield, so you not only have to be physically-gifted as a shortstop with range, and arm, and hands and feet, and that type of thing, you also have to be extremely in-tuned into the game — where the pitcher’s sequences from the catcher, what are they calling, positioning your infielders and your outfielders. It’s a lot to put on a young player’s plate, to play the position the right way, and we want to make sure that he’s very much ready for the challenge to play shortstop in the big leagues every day when he gets up there.”

Stephen and Joe:

Davey Martinez provided a brief update on Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross in his pregame press conference before the series finale in Miami on Wednesday.

“They’re throwing the 19th [yesterday now], so I’m looking forward to watching them. I think they’re going to try to get three ups, and we’ll see how they do,” Martinez said.

Earlier in the day on Wednesday, however, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo went into more detail on their progress as both Strasburg and Ross work to return from their respective injuries and prepare for rehab assignments with whatever affiliate they go to when they’re ready to move from sim games to live action.

“I think that what we’re doing is we’re putting them on their regular five-day rotation progress, which is what they do during the season,” the GM explained.

“Right now they’re at a build-up stage to get them to a point where they can go to a minor league affiliate and rehab and do a rehab assignment.

“We often like to get them to 5 or 6 ups, ‘ups’ we call it, up and down, so 5-6 innings and around 90-100 pitches before we deem them ready to come to the big leagues.”

MLB: Game One-Washington Nationals at New York Mets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

As for what the Nationals want to see from each before they decide to send either or both out to an affiliate?

“I think it’s a comfort-level,” Rizzo said, “… it’s an endurance-level, it’s a strength-level, and they’re going to tell us when they’re ready to be activated, but suffice it to say, they want to get out of West Palm Beach, and they want to get to D.C. and help their teammates win and pitch in the big leagues, because that’s what they do, that’s what they do for a living, that’s what they’re born to do, and not doing it hurts them and it really shows when you talk to them down in the minor leagues they want to get back to D.C. very badly.”

As of now, Rizzo added, the club is happy with the progress and where their stuff is, though there is obviously more work to be done in terms of building arm strength and building up their endurance.

“I think that it was reported the other day that Joe Ross was up to 95 on some pitches and Stras was up to 92,” Rizzo said. “We’ll take that right now at the point that they’re at in their rehab and we know as they build they will increase their velocity, and endurance.

“As they go 5-6 innings, 90-100 pitches, I think you’ll see that velocity get to where it needs to be for them to participate.”

Tanner Rainey - Concerned?:

Davey Martinez has talked often recently about the difficulty of keeping his A-bullpen arms sharp when the opportunities for holds and saves are few and far between for the club this season.

In three appearances in the last 11 days, Tanner Rainey has struggled, with two blown save opportunities in which he’s put up a 13.50 ERA, a 2.72 FIP, three walks, five Ks, and a brutal .385/.471/.615 line against in 2 23 IP, over which he’s given up five hits, three walks, and six runs, four earned.

In Wednesday’s game, Rainey took the mound with a 4-3 lead and gave up a leadoff single and back-to-back, one-out walks which loaded the bases before the tying run scored on a sac fly, with things getting a little weird, with an appeal on the runner leaving too early and a reversal of the initial call he had. He got out of the inning with the score tied at 4-4, but it was his second blown save in the only two opportunities he’s had since April 19th.

Martinez said the lack of command was a result of Rainey getting too quick when things got rolling in the ninth.

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

“He got quick. He started getting really quick, he started opening up,” Martinez explained.

“He just had to stay focused and just keep throwing strikes. He’s got nasty stuff, and he doesn’t have to throw the turbo sliders like we talk about with two strikes or any time. But his stuff is nasty. He’s just got to work on — you’ve got the 8-9 hitters, just throw strikes. He’s hard enough to hit, you don’t have to throw — he doesn’t have to strike guys out, just let them put the ball in play and get out of the inning.”

Martinez was asked if the inconsistent workload has affected the closer.

“No, because we’ve got him to do a lot more bullpen work and throwing in the bullpen, off the mound, so he’s sharp, just like I said, he gets that one out, and then everything starts to speed up on him, so we just got to slow him down, he’s got to understand that he needs to slow down, which, he came back and he did well, he got a big out for us to keep us right there, so we got to get him to do that. After he gets the one out, just relax and focus on pitch by pitch.”