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Washington Nationals’ CJ Abrams making a strong first impression

Davey Martinez likes what he sees from the Nationals’ new shortstop.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Davey Martinez seemed genuinely excited by what he saw from 21-year-old shortstop CJ Abrams in the infielder’s debut for Washington’s Nationals after he was acquired from San Diego in the deadline deal which sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres.

Abrams went 0 for 4 at the plate, and he had a throwing error in the field, but he also showed off his range and made a few nice plays in his first game up with his new team.

“Man, he’s all-in,” Martinez said. “He loves to play. You can see that in him, and like I said, he’s so young, you know, but he’s excited to be here and I’m looking forward to watching him play every day.”

After Monday’s game he also stressed the importance of having solid defense behind the Nats’ pitchers as the club is building the next competitive team in the nation’s capital.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

“He catches the ball and makes plays for us it helps our pitchers out a lot,” the fifth-year skipper said. “And people don’t realize, it’s about a lot of things, it’s really about keeping our pitchers’ pitch count down. If he can catch — make the routine plays — catch balls like that, get us out of big innings, it’s definitely going to help our pitchers out a lot.”

At the plate, Abrams got up to 0 for 8 before he connected for his first hit, a game-tying, two-out, RBI single in the tenth inning of the 7-5 extra innings loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Martinez said it was good to see Abrams pick up a hit after the left-handed hitting infielder matched up against some tough southpaws in his first two games.

“Unfortunately he’s getting a little bit of — he’s facing a bunch of lefties, but he stays on the ball really well,” the Nats’ manager said, “… and his swing stays through the zone really well. I’m glad he got his first hit, and a big one at that. Now he can kind of loosen up a little bit. But the kid’s not afraid. Kid goes out there and competes, and he had some good swings today. So I told him, ‘It’s just a matter of time before the ball starts dropping in there for you.’ I said, ‘Keep battling, keep swinging,’ and it’s good that he came through and got a big hit, big base hit, and an RBI.”

The more at-bats he gets against tough big league lefties, Martinez said, he’ll learn how to approach them.

“[What] you got to learn a little bit on those lefties is to kind of get the ball up a little bit,” he said. “They’re going to throw some sliders, they’re going to try to get him to chase. Get him in the zone. And when he does that, he’s — like I said, he’s got good hand-eye coordination, and he usually puts the ball in play, but when the ball is in the strike zone, so that’s something that he’s going to learn over time, but like I said he’s got great bat-to-ball skills, and it’s fun to watch him go up there and compete, because he truly competes, every pitch, he’s engaged and he’s in there. He came through in a big moment, so that’s awesome.”

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Abrams was drafted out of high school in the first round in 2019 (6th overall), as a highly-regarded prospect, and he was a key piece in the trade package which convinced the Nationals to part with Soto and Bell, and Abrams’ new manager said he sees what all the hype was about.

“What I see is instincts for the game,” the fifth-year skipper said. “That’s what I see out of him. His first move to the ball in the infield, his angles, the way he approaches every at-bat. That’s baseball instincts, that’s baseball IQ, and he’s got it, and now it’s just a matter of getting him comfortable, and getting him to understand just the little things, and he’s going to be good.

“Perfect example was, he gets a base hit, he did not stop, and he knew what they were trying to do, he got to first base, and he kept going to second base, and that was great baserunning, and for a 21-year-old to understand that portion of the game is awesome.

“We got a good one, and we’re going to teach him how to play the game the right way, but so far I love everything that he’s doing.”