September call-ups ain’t what they used to be. Gone are the days of multiple call-ups which blew up rosters and led to interminably long games with constant substitutions late slowing things to a crawl ... at least when your team wasn’t in contention ... but also if they were still fighting for something.
Rosters expand from 26 to 28 players on September 1st, and as Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, the club will call up some additional players to supplement the depleted roster in the nation’s capital, though he didn’t commit to any particular players coming up when asked if any of the prospects in the Juan Soto and Josh Bell deadline deal with the Padres (like maybe new lefty MacKenzie Gore, who’s injured, or shortstop C.J. Abrams, both of whom played in the majors with San Diego), would be up for the last month?
“I’m not sure what the timeline is on promotions,” Rizzo said. “MacKenzie Gore, that will be dictated by his health and his rehabilitation status at the time, and we want to get C.J. Abrams some reps in our organization so he can be comfortable he knows the Nationals’ way of playing the game and that type of thing.
“So, I’m not sure about timing of the promotions, but those are two major league-capable players that will get to the big leagues as soon as they’re ready.”
“You know the September deadline has changed from years past when we would bring up 8-10-11 guys in September, now you’re only allotted two extra players, so we’ll see how that pans out as we get closer to the date,” Rizzo added.
So, since Gore is recovering from a left elbow issue … Abrams and Cade Cavalli?
“It’s a possibility,” Rizzo said.
“Again, it’s a possibility, not committing to any of them because we’re not sure where we’re going to be or what we’re going to need or what we’re going to do at that time, but they’re both close to the big leagues and they’re both getting ready to be big pieces of our big league puzzle, so it’s not — it wouldn’t be uncommon to mention those two names because they’re very close to the big leagues already.”
But Abrams is totally going to be up soon, playing short as Davey Martinez has discussed, right? With Luis García shifting over to second?
“He’s playing shortstop every day,” at Triple-A, Martinez said before last night’s game, “and that’s kind of what our plan was for right now. [Rizzo] and myself will deem when he should come up here, but we wanted to bring him up here, he’s young, he’s 21 years old, and just let him play every day down there.”
Ring That Bell:
Josh Bell had a .301/.384/.493 line, 24 doubles, and 14 home runs over 103 games and 437 plate appearances in his second season in D.C., before the pending free agent went to the San Diego Padres along with Juan Soto in the trade deadline deal which netted the Nats five high-end prospects and a major league bat. And while all the talk has been about Soto, who is back in Nationals Park (along with Bell) this weekend, the Nats’ skipper joked last night he had to recognize Bell for his contributions.
“We talk about Juan, Juan, Juan, Juan, we got to talk about that other guy too,” Martinez said, but, “Bell.”
“You talk about a leader, that guy is a leader in his own way, he’s one of the best.”
“He was the constant leader in our clubhouse,” the fifth-year manager added.
“He never had a bad days — always — if he went 0 for 4, he’d go look for his teammate, pat them on the back. If he had a great day, ‘Great job.’ If the cat had a bad day, ‘Hey, we’ll get them tomorrow.’ That was the kind of guy he was. And then what he did off the field, with the [Nationals Youth Baseball] Academy, with the — everything, that to me is a leader.”
With Bell, he continued, it was, “... not just the player itself, but the all-around person,” and he really enjoyed having him on the team for two seasons, if that’s it for their business relationship.
“But you never know, right,” Martinez added. “He’s a free agent.”
New Leaders; Constant Leaders; Quiet Leaders:
While Bell was a “constant leader” as Martinez mentioned above, he also said Soto was a leader in his own way. A “quiet” leader.
But with both of them now Padres, who’s stepped into the leadership void in the Nationals’ clubhouse?
“You know what, we still have an unbelievable leader in that clubhouse in [Nelson] Cruz, but since I’ve got to know Luke [Voit], he’s been really good,” Martinez told reporters before the series opener with San Diego in D.C. last night. “He’s quietly become that guy as well. In the dugout, he’s very competitive, but he’s had a lot of energy, and I see him going up to guys and talking to them about at-bats, and pitchers, and all kinds of stuff, but like I said, I observe all these things, and I love it, and I tell them all the time, when these guys come, I say, ‘Only thing I ask you to do is you be you, don’t change who you are.”
How did he see Soto grow as a leader? How did it work with a “quiet” leader in the dugout and clubhouse?
“He was quietly becoming that leader, and for Juan, he was vocal in the clubhouse, more vocal in the dugout, but he tried to lead by example, by the way he went,” Martinez said.
“He tried to teach our young guys the strike zone, the way to go about their business every day. For a young kid, he learned that fairly young, but you look at the guys he had in front of him, right, the Trea Turners, the Zims [Ryan Zimmerman], the Howies [Howie Kendrick], in their way those guys were all leaders as well, but he learned something from each and every one of them, how to play the game, how to understand the game, and he tried to do that, and he’s going to get better at it.
“As we all talk about, you really can’t appoint a leader, a leader comes from within, and he was becoming that guy.”