Andrés Machado has been up and down between Triple-A and the majors in his two seasons with Washington’s Nationals, but as manager Davey Martinez explained when Machado was optioned out to Rochester back in mid-June, it’s part of the game, especially when it comes to bullpen arms.
“I think at the end of the day they understand,” Martinez explained. “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.”
So the fifth-year skipper sends them out with a game plan, and things to work on and try to improve before the next opportunity.
“I always tell them, ‘Hey, go down there and keep working, keep doing what you’re doing,” he said, “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.”
A day after he was optioned to Triple-A, Machado was back in the majors, called back up when left-hander Evan Lee was injured, and in seven games which followed, the Nats’ 29-year-old righty has thrown 7 1⁄3 scoreless out of the bullpen, holding opposing hitters to a .120/.185/.160 line, with two walks and five Ks over that stretch.
He’s up to 10-straight scoreless innings on the mound overall, with a .167/.211/.250 line against in the outings.
In 25 games and 31 1⁄3 IP overall this season, in his second year with the Nationals, Machado has put up a 4.02 ERA, a 4.25 FIP, and a .248/.309/.422 line against, providing his manager with a multi-inning option if necessary, with 11 of his appearances an inning-plus.
Martinez laughed on Saturday when a reporter asked about Machado quietly, and without much fanfare, providing solid work for the Nats.
“He’s not that quiet,” Martinez joked. “But no, he’s another one where we sat down with him, kind of gave him a broader spectrum of what we feel like he can do. He’s gone up and down a few times, and really worked on the things that we’ve talked to him about and now he’s continuing to knock the door down. I mean, he’s just going out there and making pitches.”
“The biggest thing with him as [with] every young pitcher in one, controlling your emotions when you’re out there, and two is throwing strikes, and he’s done both of [those] here as of late, and you can see the rewards.
“He’s been pitching really well. He’s using his fastball, locating his fastball, throwing his changeup, and his slider really well.”
Machado has thrown 32.6% four-seamers this season, according to baseballsavant.com. He averages 96.1 MPH on the fastball, though opposing hitters have a .353 AVG on the pitch.
He throws 31.5% sinkers (.143 BAA), 22.2% sliders (.269), and 13.8% changeups (.063).
“He’s a guy that was a starter, so he had four different pitches,” Martinez said. “Now as a reliever we want him to perfect two pitches, maybe three, and he’s done that. And he’s learning. This was a new thing for him. Like I said, he started before, and he’s in the bullpen now and he’s really starting to get it. And I think [bullpen coach] Ricky Bones has a lot to do with his success, because he’s been working with Ricky a lot about just his emotions and how to attack hitters when he comes in the game, how to pitch in high-leverage situations [men] on base, and Ricky has taught him a lot about that.”
Which of his pitches in particular has Martinez liked, if he’s going to focus on just a few?
“He’s attacking the zone with his fastball. Like I said, he’s got good movement on his fastball right now. It’s been really good,” Martinez said.
“We talked a lot about utilizing his changeup. And today he was just pumping fastballs.”
Machado gave up a leadoff double when he took over in the bottom of the fifth in Sunday’s game, but Dansby Swanson, who bounced one over the left-field wall on 95 MPH first-pitch fastball, was stranded at third three outs later, and the Nationals scored three in the top of the sixth to take a 3-2 lead in what ended up an extra innings loss.
Martinez talked after the finale in Atlanta about some adjustments Machado made to his delivery which seem to have paid off.
“He’s got a lot more movement on his fastball, his location has been a lot better, so he’s been working with [pitching coach Jim] Hickey and Ricky on some things with his lower half, and it’s helped him out a lot.”