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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on “playing the kids” vs veterans; Juan Soto on Trea Turner + more

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Thursday in Nationals Park...

Play The Kids!?!?!:

You’re not the only one wondering about the veterans on the Nationals’ roster this season, in spots younger players within the organization could be getting experience in early on in the organizational reboot for Washington.

GM Mike Rizzo and Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez both got variations of that question in the last days, Rizzo in his visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, and in Martinez’s pregame press conference with reporters on Thursday.

Rizzo’s take on why they don’t just have a roster full of young players up in the majors now?

[ed. note - “That will be after the trade deadline, right?”]

As the GM in D.C. explained it, you don’t rush young players up till they are ready to play at the major league level, so spots will be filled in the big leagues when up-and-comers within the system are ready to make the jump.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“It’s because we bring players to the big leagues when they’re big-league-ready, and that’s the answer,” Rizzo said succinctly. “There’s a developmental curve that belongs here. We want to make sure that these young, good prospects are ready to pitch in the big leagues and once they get here, they’re here to stay, and that’s always the equation we use when we’re talking about bringing people to the big leagues. It’s, ‘Are they ready to compete at the big league level, are they fully prepared, physically, emotionally, stuff-wise for the grind of the major league season?’ And that’s the only criteria we use to bring up a player, be it a pitcher or a position player.”

“Until you’re fully-prepared and until your full arsenal is ready to compete at this level, we’re not going to bring you here,” Rizzo added, “... because we want you once you get here to be fully-prepared and to stay here for the rest of your career.”

Martinez was asked a similar question after the club added 38-year-old Aníbal Sánchez and 37-year-old Tyler Clippard to the big league roster on Thursday (with Mason Thompson, 24, optioned to Triple-A to make room for Clippard in the bullpen).

Martinez said it was nice to have the once and now current Nationals back on the roster.

“It definitely turns back the clock, yeah, but like I said, what’s good about having these veteran guys is that they really do help our young guys a lot, and I’m looking forward to hearing Clippard talk to some of those young guys in the bullpen that are just coming up.”

“He’s been with some of these guys a lot, and helped them out a lot in Rochester, so that’s kind of nice,” the fifth-year manager said.

“And with Aníbal, even though he’s been hurt, he’s been here quite a bit, and he’s helped out a lot of the guys, a lot of the young pitchers, and helped out [catcher] Keibert [Ruiz] a lot. Talked to Keibert about sequences and things of that nature, when he’s calling games.

“Now he gets a chance to go out there, and Keibert gets a chance to catch him, so it’s going to be interesting and we’ll see how they work together.”

Mason Thompson Optioned To Triple-A:

As for Thompson, who’s thrown five scoreless innings since coming off the IL earlier this month? Why was he optioned out?

“We’ve been trying to take care of him. We used him every other day, but he’s done well,” Martinez said.

“Now we want him to kind of get in that groove where we can use him multiple days maybe use him for 4-5 outs, so he’s going to go down and do that.”

New York Mets v. Washington Nationals Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It wasn’t an easy decision to option the hard-throwing righty out, however.

“It was very tough,” Martinez told reporters, “... but at the end of the day we thought about Mason Thompson. He’s already been on the IL. So with the All-Star break, everything going on, we wanted to send him out, get him built up, get him to throw back-to-back days, because he hasn’t really done that here. It gives us a little time to get him stretched out more. And these other guys, they’ve all been throwing the ball well. So it was tough, it really was.”

Making A Play For Trea:

Juan Soto was named to the NL’s All-Star roster this past weekend, and when he spoke with reporters about making his second straight All-Star appearance, the 23-year-old joked that he might try to pitch Trea Turner, who’s starting at short for the NL in the ASG, and was the shortstop in D.C. for seven seasons before he was traded to LA last July 30th, on returning to the nation’s capital once/if he become a free agent this winter.

“Yeah, we’re going to have fun with that guy,” Soto said. “That guy is really fun, and I hope that we’re going to have a good time there, and try to convince him to come back. We will see.”

What did his manager think of Soto’s plan?

2021 T-Mobile Home Run Derby Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“I hope his goal works out,” Martinez said with a laugh. “Like I said, he’s one of the biggest superstars in the game right now. He does it all. We’ve had him here, and we did some big things with him here, so I’m looking forward to seeing him.”

Martinez, named to NL manager Brian Snitker’s staff, said he was excited about the chance to catch up with some old friends in Los Angeles.

“Reuniting with some guys that we’ve had here before, and some old friends. I go way back with [Snitker], he was a coach when I was in Atlanta. So it’s going to be fun to sit in the same dugout with him and just reminisce. I know — we have [Eric Young, Jr.] here, I played with his dad, and he’s going to be one of the coaches. And all of the players, all the superstars, all the All-Stars that are going to be at the game, I love talking to them, I love picking their brains, and it’s going to be exciting and it’s going to be fun. It’s in LA, so it should be a lot of fun.”