César Hernández’s Role:
Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked at length on Saturday about the plan to eventually bring shortstop C.J. Abrams up from Triple-A Rochester and have the 21-year-old acquired from the San Diego Padres in the Juan Soto/Josh Bell deal play shortstop for the big league club, with Luis García, who’s played short in most games since he came up back on June 1st, shifting back over to second base.
So, what does that mean for César Hernández, who’d played 108 game at second after he started there in Sunday’s series finale with the Philadelphia Phillies.
“César [Hernández] has played everywhere in the past,” Martinez said on Saturday night, “... so I told him just get used to playing all three infield positions. So I want to keep these guys going and keep them flexible.”
The flexibility, and versatility on the roster, the fifth-year manager said, is something he values.
“Yeah, I love that,” he told reporters. “I love the guys that can play multiple positions. We’ve done it in the past. I mean, I’ve been on teams, coaching, where we had guys [who have] been able to play multiple positions. And it makes it nice. It makes it easier for decision-making during the games that we can actually put somebody in another spot without having to take him out of the game.”
Martinez said he’s talked to Hernández to let him know his role will change as the club tries to build for the future over the last two months, and he said the 32-year-old, 10-year veteran knows the deal.
“He understands that we’re going to get younger, but I told him, I said, ‘It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get an opportunity to play.’
“So he’s been taking ground balls at third base. He’s also played some outfield in the past, so we’ll get him out there and take some fly balls.
“But until that time comes, he’s playing second base for us every day. So I told him, ‘Don’t worry about that [Abrams coming up], I don’t know when that’s going to happen, but I just wanted to make sure that I talked to you about, and that you’re prepared to do other things.’”
Jordan Weems had to cover 2 1⁄3 innings on Saturday, when Patrick Corbin went just 2⁄3 of an inning in his start, and after Weems threw 57 pitches in relief, in a game in which manager Davey Martinez had to use six relievers, the move the Nationals made on Sunday to option him out and bring up a fresh arm, Mason Thompson’s, probably wasn’t too big a surprise.
Thompson, 24, had seven appearances out of the Nats’ bullpen before Sunday, after he was acquired from San Diego’s Padres at the 2021 trade deadline. He pitched for his new club down the stretch last season, and the big league skipper in D.C. said he liked what the hard-throwing righty has done at Triple-A Rochester this year.
“He’s done multiple innings. He’s been throwing the ball well. He’s been here, so we felt like he’d be the guy that could help us out,” Martinez explained.
“Especially if things go awry today [Sunday]. He could give us one-plus innings.”
Weems clearly wasn’t going to be available, and the Nationals didn’t want to gamble their starter would go deep in the series finale with the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park.
Martinez said the players understand the option game, and the fact they could be optioned out when there is a need in the majors.
“The thing about it is, players know. And they know when you have options, it’s part of it. It’s the unfortunate part of it. And I told [Weems] yesterday — even though he threw a lot of pitches that second inning, he goes back out, and that was huge for us, that he could go back out there and finish. It really helped our bullpen out a lot. So we’ll be in good shape today with our bullpen. Like I said, with Mason here now, that helps out a lot.”
Thompson had given up just one hit in seven appearances and six scoreless innings out of the bullpen in the majors thus far in 2022, and he’s back up with his 96 MPH sinker, which he’s thrown 67.4% of the time this season, holding hitters to a .063 AVG on the pitch, while mixing in his slider 31.6% of the time before he gave up a run on three hits in the series finale in Philadelphia. He has a 1.59 ERA in 11 1⁄3 IP at Triple-A.
“He’s been pitching, and pitching well,” Martinez told reporters.
“Like I said, he’s been back-to-back days, multiple innings. So I feel comfortable getting him out there and using him the way we feel fit.”
The manager did acknowledge the club considered bringing up more than one arm with all the work his bullpen has put in the last few games.
“We thought about it. If we had to use another guy [Saturday]. Erasmo [Ramírez], we tried to stay away from yesterday, so he could give us multiple innings if need be today. And those other guys, CJ [Carl Edwards, Jr.] and [Kyle] Finnegan, they haven’t pitched much in the last few days. So they’re pretty good to go.”
Ramírez ended up giving the Nationals 2 1⁄3 scoreless on Sunday.
Fedde Getting Ready:
Erick Fedde went on the IL with right shoulder inflammation on July 31st, and on Saturday his manager provided an update on the right-handed starter, who’d thrown a bullpen as a step towards his eventual return.
“He did fine. He’s throwing another one today, so he’s going to throw another bullpen today and then we’ll see how that goes,” Martinez told reporters.
It was a 31-pitch bullpen, the manager said, and he’d likely jump to 40 when he took the mound again.
“He’s gonna throw another bullpen in Chicago,” Martinez said on Sunday, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco.
“And then if that goes well, we’ll have him throw a 50-55-pitch sim game back when we get home. So it went fine yesterday.
“So he’s scheduled, I think, to throw Tuesday another bullpen.”