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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Aaron Sanchez DFA; Nelson Cruz streaking

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

Aaron Sanchez Designated For Assignment:

Late on Saturday night, after the Nationals split a doubleheader with the Rockies in D.C., the team sent out a press release via Twitter: “The Nationals have designated Aaron Sanchez for assignment. Andres Machado remains on the active roster. The 40-man roster is now at 39.”

Sanchez started in the day half of the twin bill in Nationals Park, giving up eight hits, and a total of seven runs in 3 23 innings pitched, throwing 75 pitches before he was lifted from a game the club went on to win, 13-7.

The outing left the 29-year-old righty, who has battled with injuries in recent years, with an 8.33 ERA, a 5.48 FIP, eight walks, 16 Ks, and a .367/.400/.578 line against in seven starts in the Nationals’ rotation since he was called up from Triple-A Rochester in late April.

It also left the Nationals with a hole in their rotation they’ll have to fill in Wednesday’s series finale with the New York Mets in Citi Field.

Colorado Rockies v Washington Nationals - Game One Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Erick Fedde and Patrick Corbin are lined up for the first two with the Nationals’ NL East rival, but after that?

“We’re going to need a spot here next week,” Martinez said. “We felt right now was a good time to start thinking about what we’re going to do for Wednesday.

“Right now, I can tell you right now we have a lot of different options and different things we’re thinking about, we won’t have a decision till probably Tuesday.”

As noted above, with a 40-man spot open, the answer could come from off the current 40-man roster.

“That starter could come from off the 40-Man, yeah,” Martinez acknowledged. “So like I said, we’re weighing all our different options, but we won’t make that decision till Tuesday.”

Cruz-ing; Or Streaking:

Nelson Cruz, the Nationals’ 41-year-old, 18-year veteran DH, started the series finale with the Rockies with a nine-game hit-streak going, over which he was 15 for 32 (.469/.514/.594) with four doubles, three walks, and five runs scored over that stretch. But it wasn’t just those last nine games.

“In 20 games dating to May 6,” as the Nationals wrote in their pregame notes for Sunday’s game, “Cruz is hitting .356/.420/.507 with five doubles, two homers, 15 RBI(s), eight walks, one stolen base, and 11 runs scored,” and he’d, “... hit safely in 16 of the 20 games and [had] recorded eight multi-hit efforts along the way.”

The nine-game hit streak going into Sunday’s game took Cruz from a .191 AVG on the year, to .238.

Did his manager ever wonder, when Cruz hit .155 in April, if he’d maybe finally hit a wall in his 18th season in the majors? Uh, no, apparently.

“You know what, I concern myself about a lot of things, but he was never a concern,” the fifth-year skipper joked.

“I really thought, ‘He’ll make the adjustments, he really will.’ And he has done that, and I looked up, and at one time he was hitting .196, I think he’s up in the .230s now, so he’s coming. He’s doing everything we thought. And like I said, I think the home runs will eventually come as it starts getting warmer consistently.

“The balls will start traveling a little better. He’s hit some balls where I thought they were homers anyway, but when the weather is the way it is, sometimes the balls don’t go as far.”

MLB: Game One-Colorado Rockies at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Cruz hit just four through 44 games and 186 plate appearances. He had 10 at this point last season, over 45 games and 176 PAs. Martinez isn’t worried about him though, as he said.

What’s been different as he’s heated up over the last few weeks?

“Not chasing, and getting more balls up in the air, that’s the two things that I’ve noticed,” Martinez said, “and I’ve looked at all the numbers, is that he’s not chasing, he’s getting more balls in the zone, he’s swinging at more balls in the zone, and he’s hitting the ball up in the air, and I watch this guy — look, and I say it all the time — this guy is an unbelievable professional, right?”

And as Martinez said, he’s a great example for his younger teammates.

“Yesterday, he hits the ball right behind the shortstop, in left-center field, right out of the box, he never broke stride, and he slid into second base, guy is not no spring chicken, so when he does that I use him as an example for the rest of the guys. “This guys is up —’ I never want to say his age, but he’s up there in age, and, ‘watch the way he plays, right?’ He sets the example, and they’re all like, ‘Yeah.’”

Martinez is watching Cruz just as closely as he suggests his team does.

“I watch him too, with two strikes, and guys in scoring position, cut down his swing, and he cuts down with two strikes, and just shoots the ball the other way. Teaching moment. ‘Look, this is why this guy has drove in 1,000+ RBIs, because this is what he does.’

“So he helps in that way with all the guys. So, he’s — when I look at all the numbers, so I break everything down into months, and April and May, he was way better in May, and why?

“Like I said, because he’s chasing less, he’s getting the ball up in the air, and he’s using the whole field.

“So, that’s why he’s been a lot better. And he’s driving in runs for us. Big time. And having him just because of all these things that I said, is awesome.”