The next time the Washington Nationals take the field at Nationals Park, manager Davey Martinez is hoping to have one more piece of his lineup of the future.
With trade acquisition CJ Abrams installed as the team’s starting shortstop, the Nationals are hoping to have Luis García back from the injured list to play second base in Friday’s game against Cincinnati.
García was called up June 1 to be the everyday shortstop — that is until the blockbuster deal with San Diego which brought Abrams, Luke Voit, and three other prospects for Juan Soto and Josh Bell.
But García developed a groin injury Aug. 13, before Abrams could make it to the big leagues following the trade.
After completing a rehab assignment this week with Class AAA Rochester, the Nationals are hoping to he’ll return by Friday to be their everyday second baseman.
“He’ll play (with Rochester) Tuesday, Wednesday, we have a day off Thursday, so if he needs another day to play on Thursday he will,” Martinez told reporters before the Nats’ 2-1 loss to San Diego on Sunday. “Then hopefully he can back with us on Friday if everything goes well.”
That game against the Reds will be everyone’s first glimpse Abrams at short paired with García at second.
García has not played second base since he played for the Nats during the COVID-shortened 2021 season, but Martinez is confident in the position shift.
“He says he’s ready to play nine innings right from now, but we’ll see,” said Martinez. “If he can go out there, and play six or seven innings the first day, see how he feels the next day, and even if he can DH the next day, and then play again on the field the following day it would be great.”
Martinez said García is eager for the challenge.
“He’s been great. He’s been awesome. He’s a young kid who just wants to play,” Martinez said. “We’re fortunate that he can play both, but he’s looking forward to playing second base next to CJ.”
The keystone combination of the future is the keystone combination of the present.
García slashed .289/.301/.417 with four homers and 25 RBI’s before the injury.
Abrams is 4-for-26, all singles, in seven games with the Nats and is hitting .221/.272/.295 in 53 games with San Diego and Washington.
If the Nationals are going to be competitive in 2024 or ‘25, or even sooner for that matter, it makes sense that their double-play tandem have a lot of experience playing together.
It also makes sense makes sense that Keibert Ruiz, part of the blockbuster Max Scherzer-Trea Turner trade at the 2021 deadline, would complete the infield portion of the strong-up-the-middle strategy.
And if the Nats are going to be competitive at any point in the future, it would make sense that Abrams, García, and Ruiz are the anchors of that team.
General manager Mike Rizzo seems to be building his team on the principle that the strength of the best teams is up the middle.
Fans of the original Washington Senators know that the 1933 American League champions, “The Wrecking Crew of 33,” were led by the keystone combination of Joe Cronin at shortstop and Buddy Myer at second.
Cronin hit .309/.398/.445 with a league-high 45 doubles and was selected to the first All-Star Game.
Myer hit .302/.374/.436 mostly as a lead-off hitter ahead of Hall of Famers Cronin, Goose Goslin and Heine Manusch.
Perhaps the greatest shortstop-second combo of all time belonged to the Detroit Tigers between 1988-1995.
Hall of Fame shortstop Alan Trammel and second baseman Lou Whitaker were paired atop the Detroit order for many of those years, including 1984, when the Tigers started 35-5, won the American League Championship Series against Kansas City and beat the San Diego Padres in the World Series.
Trammell, a Hall-of-Famer, was Series MVP, hitting .450/.500/.800 with a pair of home runs in the Tigers’ 4-1 Series victory.
Whitaker made five straight All-Star appearances from 1983-87 and Trammell joined him in four of those seasons, plus 1980, 1988, and 1990.
The Nats don’t need a Hall-of-Fame keystone combo to be a postseason-caliber team or even a competitive one.
But putting a young duo like Abrams and García together and giving them lots of game time is a good start toward either goal.