Luis García was on the Injured List (left groin strain) when recently-acquired shortstop CJ Abrams first came up from Triple-A Rochester, but Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez talked excitedly about seeing the Nats’ 21- and 22-year-old middle infielders get started working together, with Abrams at short and García at second base in the nation’s capital.
“Watching these guys all play together, and grow together, it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be some work, a lot of work, but it’s going to be fun,” Martinez said.
García, who played second in his first two seasons in the majors, but shifted back over to his original position at short this year, told his manager he was comfortable moving back over to second after Abrams was acquired from San Diego in the blockbuster deadline deal which sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres.
“He’s been great. He’s been awesome,” Martinez told reporters when asked how García took the news they wanted him to move.
“He’s a young kid who just wants to play. We’re fortunate that he can play both, but he’s looking forward to playing second base next to CJ.”
García missed 11 games with the groin strain, played a few down at Triple-A, then returned to the majors to get started working with and getting to know Abrams.
“I’m really looking forward to watching him and Abrams play together. That will be a lot of fun,” Martinez said before middle infield duo debuted in the series opener with Cincinnati this past Friday.
“And I’m curious to see how they do together, up the middle. So we’re excited about that as well. So he’s just going to go out there and play. I told him, I said, ‘Hey, just be honest with me. If you feel anything, just let me know, right away. But you’re going to go out there and you’re going to play every day until I think you need a day off.’”
After his first look, the manager was excited about what he saw.
“I liked seeing them. The future is bright, right, for us up the middle right now,” Martinez said in his post game presser on Friday.
“It will take some time. The timing of the one double play wasn’t quite there, but I think once they get used to playing with one another it will get better.”
García got the day off in the series finale with the Reds in D.C., but Martinez talked before the game about the early returns from their time together in the infield, and in the clubhouse as they get to know one another on and off the field, with the Nats putting their lockers side by side to help facilitate the bonding process.
“I’ve seen them by their lockers talking, on the field they’re constantly communicating,” the fifth-year skipper said. “It’s been kind of fun, and interesting, watching those two kind of talk to one another. I don’t know if you guys know, but CJ speaks Spanish, so they get along and they communicate well. The other day I went to make a pitching change, and they were both rattling off, and I had to look at them and say, ‘Hey, focus, c’mon, here we go.’ But they’re getting along fine, and they talk a lot, and I know today they went out there to field some ground balls and were talking about where they want the ball on double plays and stuff of that nature, so like I said, when you have young players like that and full of energy, it will take them some time so that they really understand who they are and what they do.”
But having time down the stretch to play together is giving them the opportunity to get to know one another’s approach to the game.
“I know the other day Luis said something about CJ being really quick to the base,” Martinez continued, “so he has to focus on getting the ball to him a lot quicker, so it doesn’t mess up his footwork around the base, and that’s good that they’re starting to understand who they are.”
How long will it usually take young infielders to get comfortable playing together?
“Yeah, you know, sometimes it can [go] quicker than other times. But you know throughout the course of the game, this is stuff that we’ve got to work on in practice, when the game starts I just want them to react and play the game, and understand — the biggest thing is know that he’s going to be there. I tell Luis, ‘Hey, just understand that he’s going to be there for you, so just get the ball, do everything that you’re supposed to do in order to transfer the ball to him,’ and vice versa with CJ, just understand that he’ll be there, and just pick up the ball and get rid of it like you normally do.
“It will take a little bit, because, like I said, CJ is very quick to the ball, and Luis needs to understand where he likes the ball to feed and certain things where you want to go inside, where you want to go outside, and that’s something they’ll continue to work on.”