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Washington Nationals news & notes: CJ Abrams at short; Patrick Corbin approaching 20; MacKenzie Gore rehab start

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Saturday in Philadelphia...

Will Corbin Reach 20 Losses?:

Patrick Corbin posted a 1.96 ERA, a 4.48 FIP, and a .232/.274/.377 line against over 18 13 IP in three outings before he took on Philadelphia’s Phillies on Friday night in Citizens Bank Park, where the 33-year-old lefty gave up 12 hits and five earned runs in 6 23 innings pitched, in which he threw just 69 pitches, 54 for strikes.

“He threw 15 balls all game,” Washington’s skipper, Davey Martinez, said of Corbin’s outing following the Nationals’ 5-3 loss.

“Attacked the strike zone. Towards the end there he just started elevating the balls, I think that’s what really got him.

“He was throwing the ball down, and like I said, he gets early swings, the defense plays. I thought he threw the ball really well.”

Two of the 12 hits Corbin allowed were home runs, with Rhys Hoskins hitting an 0-1 slider over the middle at the bottom of the zone out to left to lead off the 4th, and JT Realmuto hitting a 1-0 sinker up in the zone out to right in the sixth.

“He gave up a couple of home runs on — was kind of a pretty good pitch to Hoskins, the other one was an elevated fastball to Realmuto, but threw some good double play balls.

“Just tonight again he gave up five runs, but we didn’t score runs, we hit the ball well but we didn’t score any runs,” Martinez added.

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Corbin, who’s thrown an average of 42.7% sinkers overall on the season, ended up throwing 80% sinkers in Citizens Bank, for 55 of 69 pitches, though he said it was not necessarily the plan going into the outing.

“It wasn’t my plan to just throw a bunch of fastballs tonight,” Corbin told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after the game.

“It just kind of seemed to go that way. Obviously I’d love to (throw more off-speed pitches).

“Tonight was just a different game. I’d definitely love to throw changeups, throw sliders, mix it up and see what happens.”

“What I’d like to see him do more,” Corbin’s manager said, “especially third time through the order, is throw his changeup. They had all those righties in there, I thought it would be a perfect spot for him to throw his changeup. He didn’t throw any. So that’s something that we’ll talk to him about in the next day or two, but utilizing his changeup, I mean, I thought after going through the lineup twice, third time through it would be a good pitch to break out and get these guys to swing.

“But like I said, I thought he threw the ball well again, so for me that’s encouraging.”

Corbin took the L in Philly, his 18th on the season, and while he dismissed the idea he’s even thinking about potentially being the first pitcher since 2003 to reach 20 losses, his manager said it’s something on his mind.

“We always talk to him, but he wants the ball every five days,” Martinez said. “And he’s, like I said, he’s really really worked through some things, and he’s throwing the ball really well. He was throwing the ball 94 [MPH] when I took him out of the game. His mechanics are way better, cleaner, but like I said, when you get third time through the order like that, and he’s being so effective at keeping the ball down, keep the ball down, there’s no reason why to get the ball up.”

“I [couldn’t] care less about that,” Corbin said of creeping up on 20 losses.

“I try to win every day. I’ll go out there, I’ll take the ball no matter what. Just go out there and compete, and see what happens at the end of the year.”

CJ Abrams at SS:

In addition to doing his part to turn multiple double plays for his pitchers, CJ Abrams made two fairly spectacular plays on his own in the series opener with the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park on Friday night, first on a ball up the middle in the third on which he threw across his body from behind second to get the out, and on a sharp grounder to short in the sixth that he dove into short left to catch up to before popping up to make a one-hop throw to first base for a slick play which will end up on highlight reels from the Nationals’ 2022 campaign.

“I know he’s got a good arm,” manager Davey Martinez said after the series-opening loss to the Nats’ NL East rivals, “... but his range so far has really been good. I mean, he got to that ball — his first step is really incredible. He got the ball, caught it, and he knew exactly what to do, he fired the ball down — which we teach all our guys — when you get in the hole like that you want to throw the ball down. He did it instinctively, so man, he’s playing well. He’s swinging the bat well. He’s playing really well.”

With the bases loaded and one out last night, Abrams showed off the range again, getting to a Jean Segura grounder up the middle the shortstop had to stretch for, and he stopped on a dime, turned back to step on second, straddling the incoming runner, and throwing a short-hop over to first for an inning-ending 6-3 DP.

Offensively, Abrams has impressed recently as well, going 10 for 29 (.345/.345/.448) on the road trip before last night’s game, with a double, triple, and just one K in seven games. He’s still hitting towards the bottom order, between 6-9 so far with the Nats, and his manager is in no rush to move him up, though he said he would eventually when the shortstop first got up last month.

“We bumped him up a little bit, but we’re still working on some things with him, but he’s really doing unbelievable,” Martinez said in advance of the 2nd of 3 with the Phillies.

“What I love about CJ is we talk to him about different things, and he’s willing to go ahead and use it and put it into play, and like I said, he’s doing great. I love his energy, I love the way he goes out there and plays, he’s getting better, and that’s a good thing, so I just want him to finish off the season on a high note, whether I hit him second, leadoff, whatever, or keep him down at the bottom, but I just want him to continue to play the way he’s playing.”

After last night’s game, Martinez talked again about the double play by Abrams.

“He’s been really good over there at shortstop. He’s got that instinct, and he understands what to do when the ball comes,” Martinez said.

“It was another really nice play that he made, he’s been making some really nice plays. What I love about CJ is the routine plays are made, and that’s what I love about him.”

Call Me, Call Me, Any, Any-time, Call Me:

Alex Call’s four-hit game in the series finale in St. Louis earned the outfielder an opportunity to start in the series opener in Philadelphia on Friday night, and he collected three more hits in a 5-3 loss to the Phillies, hitting his second home run in two days and 3rd overall in 2022.

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

“He’s staying on the ball, he’s swinging it well,” Davey Martinez said after watching Call put up seven hits in two days. “The thing I know about Alex: when he doesn’t chase, he puts the ball in play, he hits the ball hard. He laid off some good pitches. He’s getting in good counts to hit, and he’s hitting the ball hard. He plays aggressive, too. He’s got a lot of energy, but I love the way he plays the game.”

Starting for a third consecutive night on Saturday, Call went 0 for 4 at the plate in an 8-5 loss to the Phillies.

Gore Going Out For Rehab Assignment:

Having progressed through his rehab process as he recovers from inflammation in his left elbow which shut him down when he was still with San Diego, with a sim game in St. Louis after he’d thrown a few bullpens over the last couple weeks, MacKenzie Gore, 23, threw his post-”start” bullpen session in Philadelphia, and came out of it feeling fine, so the southpaw with start for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings today, in Syracuse, NY, in his first rehab outing since he was acquired in the trade deadline deal which sent both Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres for a package of five prospects and a veteran big league bat (Luke Voit).

“The most exciting thing is that he’s throwing off the mound again,” Martinez said of the big step in Gore’s build-up. “The ball’s coming out, he looks like he’s good. Now it’s just a matter of him facing hitters. We saw him do that a little bit, but now he gets to compete. So I’m looking forward to watching him do that as well. My big thing is to make sure that when he leaves here this year, he’s healthy and that he can go into the winter. Then we’ll build him up and get him ready for Spring Training.”

The goal in his first rehab outing?

“We’re going to get him three ups, we’ll see how does, and after that we’ll see how he’s feeling,” Martinez told reporters.

“And like I said, we’re going to stick to a process, but he’s doing well and we’ll see how he feels after that, and hopefully by the end of all this, he could possibly make a start for us here before he goes home.”

San Diego Padres v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

Gore, a 2017 1st Round pick by the Padres, made his MLB debut earlier this season, as did 24-year-old Nationals’ 2020 1st Rounder Cade Cavalli, who put together an impressive run with the club’s top minor league affiliate, before getting the call for his first start in the big leagues, after which he ended up on the IL with inflammation in his right shoulder.

The Nats’ skipper provided an update on Cavalli before last night’s game as well.

“[Cavalli is] still the same. No throwing yet. I think the plan is if everything goes well he’ll start throwing some time next week, just playing light catch, but he’s progressing.

“He’s doing a lot of strengthening work and he’s progressing.

“We’ve got time, so we’re going to take it easy with him. He’s another one that I just want to make sure, when he goes home, he feels really good and that we can continue to progress and he has a good winter and we get him ready for Spring Training.”

With those two on the mend, and Josiah Gray further into a season (innings-wise) than he’s been before, Martinez was asked how he’d set his rotation up down the stretch, depending on which arms he has available to him over these last few weeks.

“We’ll give some guys a little longer break than others,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“But we’re going to sit down and revamp our starters here, probably by tomorrow. We do have these days coming up. I want to make sure Josiah gets extra days, and then we’ll go from there.”