Luis García committed his sixth error of the season in the sixth inning of the series finale with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday afternoon, bobbling a two-out grounder for an E:6 behind second in the shift.
It was just his second fielding error of the month, since he was called up on June 1st, to go along with four throwing errors.
Before the third of three with the Bucs in D.C., García’s manager, Davey Martinez, talked to reporters about the 22-year-old infielder’s progress at shortstop, and what’s behind García struggling with his throwing at times.
“Lower half, yeah, using his lower half,” Martinez explained.
“Following his throw, getting his arm up in a good position to throw. A lot of times he was — we call it like ‘gliding’, so his body would be out here and his arm would still be here [behind his body], and when you’re like that,” the fifth-year skipper said, “you don’t know where the ball is going to go consistently. So, now he’s throwing the ball, his head is going to the target where he needs to throw and he’s throwing the ball a lot better. And we took away like the kind of lobbing the ball over there, just get it and get it there, so he’s doing way better.”
García putting the advice he’s getting into practice is another positive sign he’s a coachable young player, who can understand and apply what’s being thrown at him early in his career.
“Very coachable, yeah. Got to stay on him though,” Martinez joked.
He’s not kidding about staying on him, as third base and infield coach Gary DiSarcina has noticed watching García in the field.
“He’s got this thing, DiSar was telling me, ‘He looks at you every pitch.’ I said, “‘Cause he knows.’ I said, ‘The one time I don’t see you get ready,’ you know, his pre-pitch routine, I said, ‘It’s going to cost you.’ So, and he looks at me every time,” Martinez said.
“At the plate I always remind him, especially situations, ‘Look for the signs, this could be possibly on, you know, stay on the ball, get the ball up, hit the ball up the middle.’ I’m just going to record it from now on.”
Repeating those messages, as Martinez has explained before, reinforces them, even if it is a bit annoying after a while. There’s a purpose. García’s made big strides since he debuted as a 20-year-old in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign. Where has he seen the third-year major leaguer make significant improvements?
“A little bit more maturity,” Martinez said, “but understanding that we’re all here to help him succeed.
“When we left Spring Training we gave him a really good game plan of what he needs to do, and he took it to heart. He went down there [to Triple-A] and did everything we asked him to do. We sat down with him and we explained to him the areas he’s really good, and the areas that he needs to work on, but we wanted him to focus more on what he’s really good at, and try to be the best at that. And he went down there and started knocking the ball all over the place, playing a little better.”
GM Mike Rizzo, in his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, said some of the club’s recent success, with six wins in their last 10, can be attributed to an additional bat joining the lineup, with the shortstop 34 for 104 (.327/.336/.481) in his first 27 games, with eight doubles, a triple, two homers, a walk, and 20 Ks in 107 plate appearances.
“I think Luis García gave us a little shot in the arm when he came up,” Rizzo told the Junkies.
“He’s swinging the bat well, it’s another potent offensive hitter in the lineup, and I think that you’ve seen some of the players feed off that. I think whenever you have another hitter in the lineup I think it’s important, it really extends it, and makes the lineup that much longer and more dangerous.”
While the bat has been there for García, the defense is still a work in progress, but as the Nats’ skipper said, they knew it would be when they called him up on June 1st.
“We knew that throwing was going to a little bit of an issue at shortstop, but we gave him a plan on what we needed him to do, and he got better. And now that he’s here, DiSar and [bench coach Tim Bogar] have been on him every day. I mean, I think he’s out there now as we speak taking ground balls.
“But they’re working on his throwing. Working on his footwork. And I think he understands that we’re here to help him, we want him to be the best he can possibly be, and he’s having fun doing it, so it’s kind of nice.
“One thing we talked to him about is — look, this kid is not going to walk, he swings the bat, he’s got good bat-to-ball skills, but what balls does he hit really well? Is it the ball down? Is it the balls up? So we taught him what balls that he hits really well, so he needs to stay on those balls, and try to limit the chases as much as possible. And I tell him sometimes with two strikes, you’re on your own. You’re fighting to stay alive, but until then, this is who you are, this is what you’re really good at, and let’s try to focus on — and he’s been really good at it. I think that’s why he’s having so much success right now, is that he’s really trying to follow the game plan and he’s done it well.”
Martinez gave his shortstop a night off, for the first time since he was called up, in Tuesday’s game with the Pirates, but García was back in there for the series finale, committing the E:6, and going 1 for 5 at the plate.
“He came from Rochester where he was playing every day, and you’ve got to remember too, he was hurt for quite a while, so and he’s been playing all the time so I kind of wanted to get him off his feet for a little while, and knowing that he’s going to play a day game today and have a whole day off tomorrow, I thought it would be nice to get him off.”