Before last night’s game, the Washington Nationals announced a series of roster moves to shake things up a bit with the catching corps and bullpen mix:
- Recalled catcher Tres Barrera from Triple-A Rochester
- Returned from rehabilitation assignment and reinstated right-handed pitcher Mason Thompson from the 60-day Injured list
- Optioned catcher Riley Adams to Triple-A Rochester
- Designated left-handed pitcher Sam Clay for assignment
The move to bring Tres Barrera up and send Riley Adams down was somewhat surprising, but as manager Davey Martinez explained it in his pregame press conference before their series opener with the Miami Marlins in D.C. last night, it was about getting Adams at-bats he won’t get playing behind Keibert Ruiz in the majors.
“For Riley,” Martinez said of the recently-turned 26-year-old Adams, who has a .192/.284/.321 line at the plate in 27 games and 88 plate appearances this season, “it was tough, but it was about getting him consistent at-bats, getting him down there [to Triple-A], letting him catch every day, also play a little bit of first base, but it was more about just getting him consistent at-bats every day down there. I want to get him going, so it’s not the last we’ve seen of Riley. I think a lot of — Riley has done really well. He’s made some big, big improvements catching, and that’s good, but it’s more about getting him out there every day catching, getting at-bats every single day, and then seeing where we’re at here in a few weeks.”
Adams getting work in at first base might make a lot of sense in a few weeks if the Nats do trade Josh Bell at the 2022 Trade Deadline.
Martinez didn’t touch on that possibility.
But he did say it would benefit Adams to play multiple spots.
“We want him to learn how to play another position. We have — it’s hard to get him at-bats when you have a switch-hitting catcher in Keibert. My efforts were to try to get him out there at least 2-3 times a week, but more so than that for him, I value what he does, I value the person he is, and like I said, it’s all about Riley Adams and getting him at-bats. It always stinks when you get sent down, we get that, but I think moving forward for his future here, we want to get him going.
“I believe this guy can hit 15-20 home runs, and catch the way he catches, and if he can play first base in a moment that we can put him out there and he can catch the ball...
“So, it will be good for us and also be good for him in his career.”
The manager also said they were talking about getting Adams more at-bats for a while now.
“And so at this particular moment I thought it would be best to get him down there, get him some at-bats, getting him going before we lose too much of the season.”
Getting regular at-bats, and reps at first, the Nationals apparently believe, will benefit their catcher in the long-run.
“Without Riley really doing it, and playing [first base], I mean you can hit as many ground balls during warm-ups, but when it’s game speed, things happen awfully quickly and it will be nice to just let him go down there, relax a little bit and let him start off by playing first base down in Triple-A and see how well he does there.”
Tres Barrera, 27, put up a .256/.342/.439 line, seven doubles, and seven home runs at the plate for Triple-A Rochester in 51 games and 192 plate appearances before he got the call from the big league club last night, and came back to the majors for the Nationals.
Barrera debuted in the big leagues in 2019, and he played 30 games last season, and now he’s up to back up Keibert Ruiz.
“He’s been good. He’s been really good. I know the pitchers love throwing to him. He’s been hitting the ball, playing the game the right way,” Martinez said.
“So it’s good to see him again. I talked to him, and I told him, ‘Just be ready to play. You’ll get some opportunities to catch, just be ready.”
Thompson For Clay:
Sam Clay, a 2014 4th Round pick by the Minnesota Twins, who signed with the Nationals in 2020-21, put up a 6.02 ERA out of the bullpen over two seasons in D.C. which, eventually resulted in the left-hander getting designated for assignment last night, after he threw just a 1⁄3 of an inning in his latest stint with the team. His issue? And the thinking behind the DFA? One, the Nationals needed a roster spot for a returning Mason Thompson, and two?
“As I talked about, [Clay] couldn’t control the strike zone up here, but I like Sammy a lot, he’s a good guy,” Davey Martinez told reporters after the moves were announced last night.
“Hopefully he gets picked up, if not I always mention that we’d love to get him back if things don’t work out,” the manager said.
“But as you know, this is part of the game. Mason was ready to come back and we brought him back up.”
Martinez did say on Wednesday the organization wanted Thompson, 24, and acquired at the deadline last July from the Padres in the deal that sent Daniel Hudson to San Diego, to, “... get ... back-to-back days, one-plus innings, [while they] continue to stretch him out a little bit,” but apparently they liked what they saw enough to fast-track his return after he put up a 1.35 ERA in six games and 6 2⁄3 IP as he rehabbed from the biceps strain which landed him on the IL back in mid-April.
“We talked to a bunch of people down there and they said he’s throwing the ball really well,” Martinez said, “... and he’s ready, so why not get him up here and he can do that here. We’ll be careful with him, but I talked to him for a moment and he said he felt great, and he can go back-to-back days, he can get four or five outs if we need him, so that’s good.”
Thompson worked around a two-out single in an 18-pitch, 14-strike ninth, throwing 13 sinkers (72%) which averaged 96.9 and got up to 97.8 MPH, and five sliders (28%).
“Good. Really good. His fastball was coming out, sinking the ball well, his slider was better,” Martinez said of what he saw from Thompson after the game. “It was something we talked to him about, and not afraid to throw it, and that was good to see.”