Davey Martinez talked after three relievers and one position player covered 5 2⁄3 innings in the series opener with Philadelphia’s Phillies in Washington, D.C. on Thursday night, about whether or not club would need to supplement their relief core with a call-up.
Patrick Corbin went just 3 1⁄3 IP, then Andres Machado (1 2⁄3), Erasmo Ramírez gave them an inning, Reed Garrett covered 2 IP, and then Ehire Adrianza, the aforementioned position players, tossed a scoreless inning in relief to spare another bullpen arm from having to go out there, a night before a doubleheader.
“We had to use a position player, which is never fun,” Martinez said before the day half of the twin bill with the Phillies, “... but it does help, believe it or not, it keeps us from using another guy, so we have a guy available again today. That part of it stinks too, because you don’t want a position player to ever get hurt doing something he’s never done before or has done once.”
It was Adrianza’s third time, so he’s like a seasoned veteran pitcher, practically.
Recognizing a need in the bullpen, however, with four games to play in three days over the weekend, the Nationals did make a couple moves before yesterday’s game.
Joan Adon was called up as the 27th man for the doubleheader, and the Nationals optioned Machado back to Triple-A Rochester, and called up reliever Cory Abbott, 26, selected off of waivers from the San Francisco Giants back in early May.
“We called up Cory Abbott,” Martinez told reporters, “... a guy that we feel like can give us some length with these two games, so he’ll be here. He just showed up actually, but he’s a guy that — he was supposed to start today, so he’s a guy that can give us some length so it’s kind of nice to have him.”
As for a scouting report on the newest addition to the bullpen?
“He’s pitched in the big leagues before,” Martinez said, pointing to Abbott’s seven outings in 2021 with the Chicago Cubs who drafted him in the 2nd Round in 2017.
“He was down there [at Triple-A Rochester], he was working on some stuff, but he’s got a four-pitch mix, fastball, changeup, slider, a little bit of curveball,” the manager added, “so yeah, I’m looking forward, if we get an opportunity to get him in the game to see what he does. I mean, he’s a guy that, like I said, he’s been in the big leagues before. We saw him with Chicago. Interesting kind of guy as far as his mix of pitches, so if we need him, he’s available, he’s a starter, so he can give us 70-80 pitches if need be.”
Martinez also discussed the work his catchers have to do as the club keeps cycling arms, some new, some previously up in the majors, to get up to speed on the pitchers they will work with at some point.
“He’ll sit down — I told Riley Adams and Keibert [Ruiz] to get with [Abbott], talk to him, see how he attacks hitters, right-handers, left-handers, and then go with that. I mean, it’s hard when these guys come up and these guys don’t see them. I know [Coordinator, Major League Video & Technology] Kenny [Diaz] is putting together some video for our catchers to see what his balls do.”
Martinez did acknowledge though, it is a lot of work for his catchers to get to know all they need to about the new pitchers in town.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” the fifth-year skipper told reporters. “[But] like I said, we’ll put together some video for them, we’ll have conversations, I know [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey will meet with those guys, but I want them to have a dialogue with the new guys, so they’ll sit down with them and talk to them, and see what they like to throw in certain situations, how they want to pitch lefties, how they want to pitch righties, but it’s always tough when you’re going out there and the only thing you’re seeing is the guy throwing eight pitches in warm-up because that’s all they’re going to really get to do.”
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Andres Machado made 10 appearances in the majors in April (2.45 ERA, 3.32 FIP), then he spent most of May at Triple-A Rochester, but he was recalled for two games at the end of the month, before he got called back up in early June, and made five appearances before he was optioned back out yesterday so the club could call up an arm who was available in the doubleheader.
Martinez said before the first of two on Friday, Machado knows it’s part of the game, but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with for him or any other reliever who’s on the shuttle to Rochester and back.
“It’s difficult, because they want to be here,” Martinez said, “they all want to be here, but I think at the end of the day they understand. Hey, a part of the game is when you have options these things happen, and it’s part of necessity. Sometimes it’s not necessarily what you’ve done, it’s just where you’re at and the position we’re in.
“We played a lot of games, we’re going to play 15 games in 14 days, so it’s part of the game. So for me, I always tell them hey, go down there and keep working, keep doing what you’re doing, we try to give them a game plan for what they need to do and what they need to work on, and you know if they go down there, when something else happens, if they’re available, we look at everything, and you know, like Machado, I said, ‘Hey, you’ve done this before, you understand the game, you’ve been here, keep doing what you’re doing. Your stuff is good, and as soon as something else happens, just be ready when you’re called upon.”
Davey Martinez was clear from the start when the Nationals signed César Hernández this winter, that the club was more interested in the infielder getting on base than hitting for power, even though he hit a career-high 21 home runs in 2021.
His power wasn’t the draw for the Nats, which is good, because going into yesterday’s twin bill or doubleheader, the 32-year-old 10-year veteran hadn’t hit one out. Hernández was 7th in total hits, and led the majors in plate appearances, with 293, but in the first three months of the season, over which he had a .269/.318/.336 line, he hadn’t left the yard. His manager said yesterday it wasn’t a concern.
“The power hasn’t been there,” Martinez acknowledged, but, he said, “he gives you good at-bats. I mean, he really does. He’s been lining out, he’s hit a couple balls hard. He lined out to start the game off yesterday, the other day he hit a rocket to third baseman, so he’s swinging the bat, he’s just not getting his hits. He went through that earlier too, the same way, but you know, when he gets on you know what he can do for us, but he’s still swinging the bat fairly well. I know he was frustrated last night, because of that [error], but he’s a guy that we count on to get on base for the big guys. He’s another guy that we have in our lineup that has good bat-to-ball skills, he makes good contact. He’s not a guy that’s going to walk 100 times, per se, he’s going to swing the bat, and he’s been doing that. A lot of times he gets frustrated because he wants every ball to fall in, and it’s not going to happen, but I tell him all the time, just have good at-bats, hit the ball hard, but stay in the middle of the field.”
On June 17th last year, Hernández had already hit 10 homers. But his manager tries to tell him all the time to stick to the process and the results, including homers, will come.
“I got to reiterate with him all time that the home runs, it hasn’t come yet, but it will come,” Martinez said. “It’s starting to get warmer, you’re hitting the balls hard, it’s just a matter of time before you start hitting the balls out front, and you’ll start hitting some home runs.
“Do I want him to hit home runs? Yeah. But more so I want him to keep hitting to get on base for us.”