DSG and Foxy:
Dee Strange-Gordon returned to the majors last night, reinstated from the IL and recalled to the majors after a short stint at Triple-A Rochester for the 34-year-old veteran who played in three games for Washington at the start of the season, before an undisclosed illness landed him on the 10-Day IL.
Strange-Gordon signed a minor league deal with the Nationals this winter and made the Opening Day roster out of Spring Training before the setback, but his manager, Davey Martinez, was excited the veteran utility man was ready to come back up and contribute at the big league level, as the club hoped he would when he made the team.
“I talked to [Rochester manager] Matt LeCroy and he said he looked good, he’s running fine,” Martinez told reporters in advance of the series opener with the Colorado Rockies.
“He had some good at-bats, so we wanted to bring him back up here.
“And he’s going to get a chance to play different positions up here as before, but he looks good. I talked to him today. He said he feels really good, so we want to get him back.”
Strange-Gordon played at lot of short (in his four games) at Triple-A, so Martinez was asked if we might see him there in the majors?
“He went down there, played some center field, played some shortstop, even played a little bit of second base,” Martinez explained, “but I told him, I said, just take a lot of ground balls at short I plan on playing you and [Alcides] Escobar a little but at short, but he understands his role. I love having him on the bench as well.
“He’s a guy that we can put in that can make something happen, that can pinch run or do whatever we need in the moment, and he understands that, but he’ll keep himself ready.”
What Does The Fox Say?:
Unfortunately, in order to make room for Strange-Gordon’s return, the Nationals optioned Lucius Fox to Triple-A Rochester after he went 2 for 25 in 10 games in his first taste of big league action.
So what was the message to the 24-year-old infielder on his way down?
“I told him, I said, ‘Hey, look, it’s just a matter of time before you get an opportunity to come up here and play every day,’” Martinez said.
“‘It’s part of your development, we want you to go down there and get as many at-bats as possible, and work on your footwork.’”
Martinez said the youngster learned plenty working with coaches Gary DiSarcina and Tim Bogar while he was up in the majors in the first month-plus.
“He’s learned a lot up here with DiSar and Bogie, and ... continue to work, but I loved having him, and you see — if we can cut down his swing a little bit, and he puts the ball in play, you see what he does when he’s on the bases. He’s a very good baserunner. And he’s going to learn a lot, and he’s learned a lot, so we just want him to go down there and get consistent at-bats and play, and when we deem he’s ready, he’s the same as Luis García, when we deem that they’re ready with all aspects of the game, they’re going to come up here, and they’re going to get a chance to play every day.”
Fox too will move around with the club’s top minor league affiliate, so he’s ready to play wherever he’s needed when he does return.
“I’ll talk to Matt LeCroy some time either tonight or tomorrow,” Martinez said, “... but I still want Foxy to play some short, as well, but he’ll play some second [base], so will Luis [García], but every now and then, maybe once a week, let him play some third base — because if something does happen up here, that we need him to be able to do that as well.”
Monday’s Roster Moves:
All 30 MLB teams were required to reduce their active rosters from 28 players to 26 (with 14 pitchers) by the end of the day on Monday, and the Nationals announced they decided on a pair of lefties, Sam Clay and Francisco Pérez, as the ones they would send down to Triple-A.
Davey Martinez said on Tuesday night keeping long relief options in the bullpen played a big role in the club’s thinking.
“Yeah, especially right now,” the fifth-year skipper explained. “As you can see, our starting pitching hasn’t gone very deep, having those guys that can give us two innings, multiple innings, was definitely a factor in what we were trying to do, so I told Sam and Pérez both that they’re going to stay ready, cause this could flip-flop here in 15 days, 20 days, whatever it is, but make sure they go down there and they get their work in and get better at getting lefties out. The key was when they come in the game it’s usually in a bulk where they’re going to face some left-handed hitters, I want them to get better at it.”
The decision to send the southpaws out left Martinez with only one lefty in the ‘pen, Josh Rogers, who moved to a relief role after starting in the rotation when he was called up.
“Josh has worked hard,” Martinez said. “The big thing with Josh is the back-to-back days, and we got to keep an eye on that.”
“But I think he’s going to do well out there, I really do,” the manager added. “You know how he is, he’s going to compete, so the good thing is that we can use him for one out, or three outs, or seven outs, or eight outs, so that’s good to have that lefty down there that can do that.”
Aníbal Sánchez returned from a season off, signed with the Nationals, and with injuries to a couple starters, made the Opening Day rotation ... on paper, but the veteran starter got off the plane from West Palm Beach to D.C. with a stiff neck (cervical nerve impingement) that landed him on the 10-Day IL at the start of the season.
On Tuesday afternoon, as part of the maneuvering to open a 40-man roster spot for Dee Strange-Gordon’s return, Sánchez was moved to the 60-Day IL.
“He’s not able to do much of anything,” Martinez said before last night’s game.
“He’s getting better, but it’s going to take him a while to get back into that starting role as a pitcher, where he’s got to build himself back up, so it’s basically, as we all know, he’s going to have to have Spring Training all over again because he’s got himself so far behind, so our big concern with him is making sure that he’s 100% healthy, and once he gets that and once he’s pain free, then he can start throwing again and getting ready to come up here and help us win games.”