Getting a few quick bits out of the way first: Davey Martinez told reporters when he spoke in advance of the second three with the Rockies in D.C., before the game was postponed, that there wasn’t anything new on injured starter Joe Ross. Ross went for an MRI on his right arm after experiencing tightness in his surgically-repaired elbow in his first rehab start following months of work on the road back from a partial tear of the UCL last summer and surgery to remove a bone spur this spring.
Ross told reporters on Thursday the latest MRI showed, “a little bit more of a sprain than I had in my previous MRIs,” as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, and he was going for a second opinion before deciding on the next step.
Asked for an update on the 29-year-old starter before last night’s game, Martinez said they were still waiting, so he had nothing new.
“Nothing, still the same. Still waiting to hear what the other doctors are telling him, so he’s been here, so we’re waiting to see.”
Carter Kieboom, 24, who was diagnosed with a flexor mass strain early in Spring Training, and felt discomfort when he started to throw again and was diagnosed with a torn UCL in his right elbow, underwent Tommy John surgery on Friday.
“[Carter] had surgery today, I have not heard yet what the results were, so as soon as I know something I’ll let you know,” Martinez said.
As for Stephen Strasburg, 33, who got through his first rehab start feeling good as he works his way back from surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Martinez said he’s set to make his second start this weekend before the team decides what to do with him next provided he is able to make additional progress without any setbacks.
“He’ll pitch on Sunday and then he’ll meet us here,” Martinez explained, “... our plans are if everything goes well to take him with us to New York so he can throw another bullpen with us in New York and then we’ll determine what happens next.”
The goal for Sunday’s outing, after Strasburg went 2 2⁄3 innings on 61 pitches earlier this week?
“We’d like him to go four, maybe five ups, staying about the 60-70 pitch range.”
César Silent Hernández:
Would it surprise you to know that César Hernández, the Nationals’ leadoff man most nights this season, is currently tied for 4th in the National League and 8th overall in the majors this year in total hits with 53 in 46 games played?
Hernández, 32, signed with the Nats in November, just before the lockout began (remember that lockout?), taking a 1-year/$4M free agent deal from the rebooting ballclub coming off a .232/.308/.386, 21 double, 21 home run season with Cleveland and Chicago in 2021.
Hernández, through 46 games and 205 plate appearances this season, has hit 11 doubles, but hasn’t yet hit one out. He’d hit six home runs through 46 games and 207 PAs last year, and he went on to hit 15 more in the 103 games and 430 PAs which followed. Will he find that power at some point this season?
He’s quietly plugging along in Washington’s lineup this season, piling up hits, though not yet hitting for power, while holding down second base in the nation’s capital.
“It’s the reason why we wanted him,” Davey Martinez said last night. “He’s a guy — switch hitter, he was a Gold Glover, but ... he puts the ball in play, left-handed, right-handed, shows up every day to play. Very quiet, but a professional, and I love when he’s out there, and I love when he’s playing, because every time he’s out in the field, you expect something good to happen, and he’s been good all year. He’s been that constant guy that gives us good at-bats, that plays the game the right way. He’s got unbelievable game awareness. You watch him out in the field, he moves with two strikes — he’ll move on his own out there. He’ll know how to play the game. I’ve never once had to tell him when to bunt. It’s always been a decision that he clearly makes himself, and it all depends — we talked a lot in the spring about when he does that, and he says it’s all based on what he’s done in the past against the pitcher, or that day if he’s not seeing the ball well, if the situation arises, then he’s going to try to get the job done any way he can, so and he’s done that.”
Yes, his manager likes him. Clearly. He also appreciates Hernández’s versatility, and ability to his from both sides of plate. So far this season, he’s got a .262/.324/.323 line in 143 PAs against RHPs and a .317/.339/.400 line in 62 PAs vs LHPs.
“He’s very consistent on what he does and how he does things,” Martinez said. “He takes pride in not only hitting left-handed, but right-handed, and more times than none you see guys — it’s one or the other, they either have more power right-handed, the average is not there, or vice versa. He’s pretty consistent throughout. I mean, he hits the ball well from both sides of the plate, and he works on it. There’s days when he just takes batting practice or works in the cage just right-handed alone, because he’s not getting the at-bats he needs, so he wants to just hit right-handed. It’s something that he takes pride in a lot, just being a switch hitter.”
Escobar Trying Too Hard:
In discussing his decision-making when it comes to who plays short each night, Davey Martinez told reporters yesterday he looks at all the data available and makes a choice based on a number of factors like matchups and the defensive alignment he wants for particular starters.
“We look at all that stuff,” Martinez said. “We look at opposing pitcher and how we perceive our lineup could match up against them, whether we’re going to score a lot of runs, or not score a lot of runs, and we look at ground ball rates, you know, and we decide a lot on that, I decide a lot on that, but I take all that into consideration, and like I said, right now, because we haven’t typically scored a whole lot of runs, the offense and getting something going, especially down at the bottom of the lineup is pretty much important.
“When we can get something going down there, we tend to score some runs, so I’ve taken that into account a lot the last week or so, or longer than that — just trying to see if we can extend our lineup a little bit.”
Until the Nationals call up Luis García, the choice is between Dee Strange-Gordon and the veteran Alcides Escobar, who put up a .288/.340/.404 line in 75 games and 348 PAs in ‘21, then re-signed with the team this winter, but has a .212/.261/.260 in 31 games and 111 PAs this season. Strange-Gordon, 34, has a .283/.283/.326 line in 18 games and 46 PA.
“They’re all getting their share of playing time,” Martinez said, “and when Dee gets a chance to play, he’s helped us win, and Escobar, you know, he’s one guy right now that’s really trying really hard, and we’re trying to get him to try less up at the plate. His defense, he’s actually played a lot better. But you know here’s another guy that’s a very smart player. The other day, knowing that this guy was pounding him with sinkers, you saw the third baseman go back and he bunted with two strikes and did it perfectly. It was a big run for us, and not only did he get [Victor] Robles to second base, but the next guy came up and got a base hit and we scored the only run of the game, but these are guys that have been around for a long time that understand who they are and are trying to help us win.”
And when he says Escobar is trying too hard?
“He’s swinging hard, he’s over-swinging a lot of times, and we’re trying to tell him to cut back and understand that hey, he’s a guy that last year used to wear out right field, and stayed on the ball, stayed on top of the ball.
Now he’s swinging really hard, and we’re trying to get him to cut back a little bit, and I think if he does that it will come.
A lot of that too is with his timing, his timing has been all messed up, and it makes him pull off the ball.
“We got to get him to get ready a little bit earlier, and really see the ball, and try to stay up the middle on the right side of the field.”