García Gets Night Off ... Sort Of:
Luis García, 22, played in 25-straight games after he was called up back on June 1st, putting up a fairly impressive .337/.347/.500 line with eight doubles, a triple, two home runs, a walk, and 19 Ks in 101 plate appearances. His manager, Davey Martinez, talked this past weekend in Texas about the improvement he’s seen since the shortstop debuted in the majors, at 20, three years back in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign.
“It was understanding the strike zone more for him, and knowing what balls he can hit,” the fifth-year skipper explained. “What balls he hits hard, locations, and once he did that, then we started seeing that he’s been hitting [a fair] amount of balls in the zone very well, and I know he notices that, so his whole approach is to get the ball in, get the ball up, doesn’t have to be in, doesn’t have to be away, it just has to be up in the zone and he’s putting a good swing on each of those pitches.”
García went 2 for 3 with two doubles and two runs scored in the Nationals’ 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the series opener on Monday, but Martinez decided to give him a night off in the second of three in D.C.
“I wanted to give him today,” he explained before last night’s game. “We’ve got a day game tomorrow, and then an off-day. So it gives him a few days, even though he’s available today if we need him we’ll put him in there. He’s been playing well. He’s been playing a lot. We got to remember he played every day in Triple-A as well before he got here.
“I thought today would be a good day to get him in there and get [Alcides] Escobar some at-bats.”
Escobar, who returned from a hamstring injury earlier this month, has been in a bench role with García up to play (almost) every day now, with an eye on his future as part of the Nats’ next contending team (in the organization’s eyes), and he might have to find at-bats playing a different position because the way García’s swinging, he’s not going to sit often.
And by sitting, of course, we mean continuing to work on his game while not starting for a change.
“He’s going to work,” Martinez said. “He went and took ground balls today. And he hit earlier in the cage. I’m going to take him at 5:15 to meet some kids with me, so he’ll do that, but I want him to be prepared and be ready to come in the game if we need him. I mean, he’s been really good. He sits there, he pays attention. He likes to have fun, he’s a young kid, but he pays attention, and makes sure he stays ready because at any given moment he could be playing.”
Martinez explained that the plan to take García with him to meet the 30-or-so kids who are from, “Hispanic communities most often,” that the manager hosts “every other homestand” for a program called, “Davey’s Dugout”, is an important part of the infielder’s development, and important for the kids as well.
“It’s something that I’ve done over the years to give back, and I like to bring a Latin player with me so the kids can see them and they can talk. I thought Luis would be the perfect guy, because this group is a little younger, so he’d be really good to communicate with the kids and just kind of get him out of his every day — and get him to speak a little bit. He doesn’t necessarily do it, he’s kind of shy, but I wanted him to get out there and start meeting some of these young kids and get him out there.”
Aníbal In Rochester:
Davey Martinez announced on Monday afternoon that Aníbal Sánchez, who has been out of action since Spring Training with a cervical nerve impingement in his neck, was heading for Triple-A Rochester to start a rehab assignment as he works his way back to the majors, after taking 2021 off and returning to the Nationals this offseason.
“He’s probably going to go probably 4/60, so we’ll see if we can get him there,” Martinez said of the planned inning and pitch counts for the 38-year-old veteran his first time out.
When he’s ready to return, they’ll sort things out, but Martinez said if healthy, Sánchez is a starter, obviously.
“As we all know, Aníbal, when he’s good, he’s a starting pitcher,” he said, “but we got guys that are doing well, and we’re seeing some of our younger guys pitch well, so we’ll have to see how things work out.”
What will those watching in the organization be looking for to know Sánchez is ready to get back and contribute in the majors again?
“For Anibal, it’s all about controlling the strike zone, throwing strikes. We talked a lot about his extension. He came to Spring Training, his extension was a lot better than it was in ‘20,” Martinez said, “so we wanted to see that this outing and just kind of build him up. He’s been missing all year long, you know, he has this neck thing for the whole year, so getting him back in and back out on the mound might take a little time, but this is a good start for him today to get him back, get him ready, and get him in shape.”
Aníbal Sánchez finishes his night with a strikeout and exits at 59 pitches. Gets a nice cheer from the crowd and claps his glove a few times before ducking into the dugout.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) June 28, 2022
Matt LeCroy says postgame that Aníbal Sánchez is scheduled to start again for Rochester this Sunday. Said he could get up to 75-80 after being in the 60-range tonight. As always, plan is contingent on how he recovers.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) June 29, 2022