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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez and Mike Rizzo on Luis García; the roster turnover; Alcides Escobar + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Thursday in Citi Field...

García A Hit In Clubhouse!:

A reporter covering the Washington Nationals in Citi Field noted that 22-year-old shortstop Luis García’s return to the majors yesterday was greeted with a raucous reception in the visiting team’s clubhouse in Flushing, Queens, NY, which manager Davey Martinez said was a result of the infielder being an energetic and popular presence in the organization.

“He’s just a funny guy, funny kid to be around,” Martinez told reporters.

“Full of energy, he’s always smiling, so I’m happy that he went down there [to Triple-A Rochester] and worked hard, and was doing well, and now we get him back.”

García debuted (out of necessity) in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, playing 40 games, and played 70 total games in 2021, but the Nationals sent the shortstop of the future down to Triple-A at the start of this season, explaining they wanted him to get comfortable back over at short after he played second for the majority of time in the majors the previous two seasons.

With an injury to Alcides Escobar on Tuesday night in New York, García got the call and got the start in the series finale with the Mets yesterday.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

“Luis García is one of our prime prospects,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies when asked when we’d see García in D.C. before the move to bring him back up was officially announced.

“We want to make sure he’s ready to get here. We think he’s very, very close ... but don’t forget, he’s 22 years old. He’d be a college senior right now if he was draft eligible, so this guy’s got a bright future in front of him. My job is to make sure that he’s completely ready when he comes, but to answer [the] question, he’s very, very close, and you’ll be seeing him in the very near future.”

In 42 games and 193 PAs at Triple-A this season, García had a .314/.368/.531 line with six doubles, four triples, and eight home runs, 16 walks, and 34 Ks before he came back up.

“Luis has been playing well, and he’s hitting well, so he’s the next, best available guy we’ve got, so we’re going to give him an opportunity,” Martinez said before the finale in NY.

“And I talked to him today, and he’s going to play every day, and I’m going to bat him — I told him, ‘Some days I’ll bat you seventh, some days I’ll bat you eighth, depending on what — but you’re going to play shortstop every day, left-handed, right-handed, you’re going to get an opportunity to play, so we’ll see how he does.”

Clubhouse Turnover:

With significant moves in the last few weeks/days, the Nationals’ clubhouse is different than it was even 48 hours ago. Their manager was asked before the third of three in Citi Field on Wednesday how the ballclub is handling the turnover as they struggle at the start of month three of the 2022 campaign.

“We understand it’s part of the game,” Martinez said in his pregame press conference. “It really is. We got to do things — our bullpen has been a little beat up over the last couple days. We needed some fresh arms, we got some fresh arms here. What I like is like yesterday [Jordan] Weems coming in and doing what he did, so but these guys, what they’ve got to understand is a lot of guys are going to get an opportunity, and it’s nice to see them, these guys that are in Triple-A, that we talked to when we left Spring Training about what we feel like they can do, and they’re going down there and they’re doing it.

“[Triple-A manager Matt] LeCroy has done a good job. [Hitting Coach Rafael Chaves] has done a good job of kind of trying to follow the program, and it’s been good. So hopefully we reap the benefits up here, and they continue to do what they’re doing down in Triple-A.”

And the manager, and GM Mike Rizzo, have to hope what’s been going on in the majors this season doesn’t continue. Rizzo talked with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies Wednesday morning about what he saw in the first two games with the Mets this week, and what had to change.

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

“The inconsistencies of the way we’re playing,” are a source of frustration Rizzo said. “You come in here, it’s a good Mets team and you come in and get boat raced twice, and that’s not what we’re about. We’re used to coming into New York and we’ve had a lot of success here over the last 10 years. I think since 2012 we’re 103-77* against these guys, and that’s like a .570 win percentage, and that’s what we’re used to coming in here, not getting beat badly two games in a row, but we got a young kid pitching today [Evan Lee], it’s a new day, we’re optimistic and we need to be more aggressive on the mound, pitch inside more and see if we can beat this good, solid Mets team.”

[ed. note - “We didn’t check his math on this. Also, the Nationals did not beat the Mets in the series finale.”]

While the team has cleaned things up a bit, after some sloppy play in the first few weeks of the 2022 season, the GM said they’re nowhere near where they need to be.

“It’s settled down a little bit,” Rizzo said, “but we’re still not anywhere near where you need to be to be a championship-caliber club. We make too many mistakes, we give away too many outs on the basepaths, and we give the team too many outs in the field, and extra outs against these good, high-powered offenses are deadly. You got to make plays, and it’s not just the plays that are deemed errors, you know, it’s plays that aren’t made. My dad taught me a long time ago, in the big leagues, a double play ball has to be two outs. If it’s not two outs, it’s a failure. Double plays have to be double plays in the big leagues, and when you give these guys extra outs it really comes back to bite you, and although I guess we’ve improved a little bit, we’re certainly nowhere near where we need to be to be contending.”

Alcides Escobar’s Future?:

Alcides Escobar held down short last season, post-Trea Turner, and he returned this year on a 1-year deal to play short with the club, sending Luis García to Triple-A to start the season.

He was injured on Tuesday night in New York, however.

Is this the end of Escobar’s days as the starting shortstop in D.C.? Will they play García every day for the next 10-12 days, and then go back to Escobar when he’s ready to return?

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

“When — as we get closer to him getting ready again, there will be another conversation with him,” Martinez said on Wednesday. “Right now I just want to get healthy. But I think he understands where we’re at. He knows that we’re trying to build some young players and get them up here, and that’s part of the process, but it will be a conversation to have with him when he starts getting better and we know that he’s going to going to be okay and ready to play.”

The decision to put him on the 10-Day IL, after Escobar suggested last night he didn’t think it would be necessary, was a simple one the fifth-year manager explained.

“He said he was still sore, and the position that he plays,” Martinez said, “... it’s tough to play while your hamstring is bothering you. So we decided the best thing to do is just to let it heal, let it get right, and hopefully it only takes 10 days, 12 days, and we’ll see where he’s at. But I told him, I said, ‘You can’t go out there and play like that, because all of a sudden now you’ve got to burst and run and then you do some significant damage, and then you’re out for a while,’ but he understood.”