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Washington Nationals news & notes: CJ Abrams and ground balls/line drives; Alex Call getting opportunity + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability this week...

Gore’s Still Working:

“Yeah, MacKenzie, he’s going to throw a bullpen again tomorrow,” Davey Martinez said in his pregame press conference with reporters on Tuesday, when asked for an update on the 23-year-old lefty, acquired from San Diego last month, who’s started throwing again, and made his first rehab start last week at Triple-A, as he works his way back from an IL stint for elbow inflammation.

“And then if that goes well, he’ll be back on the mound Friday, hopefully we’ll get him three innings, about 45-50 pitches.”

Before the second of two with Baltimore in D.C. this week, Martinez provided another quick updated on the southpaw, who’s hoping to get back on the mound for the first time for his new team before the Nationals’ season comes to an end. How’d the bullpen go?

San Diego Padres v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

“MacKenzie threw his bullpen today. I haven’t heard how he feels. But assuming that he feels good, he’ll go out Friday and pitch in Rochester.”

Martinez has said previously he wants to see Gore get up to around 5/75 before he brings him back to the majors, and the club is taking things slowly with the lefty, who’s expected to be part of the rotation for the next competitive club in the nation’s capital.

Abrams On the Ground:

Davey Martinez talked after CJ Abrams’ four-hit game in St. Louis about the advice he and the rest of Washington’s staff were giving the 21-year-old since he came over in the trade with San Diego on August 2nd.

“We’ve talked a lot about him staying behind the baseball, and really not trying to do too much,” Martinez explained. “I talked to him about just hitting hard ground balls, and he’s done well. He’s staying on top of the baseball a lot better. I mean, he sees the ball well, he doesn’t necessarily chase when he gets back on time, and he’s doing really well with that right now.”

If the part about hitting “hard ground balls” caught your attention, you are not alone, the internet had a bit of fun with the Nats’ fifth-year skipper over his post-game comments, and apparently the 16-year major league veteran heard the talk, because he brought it up earlier this week when asked what’s been working for Abrams (who has a .342/.342/.439 line in his last 10 games).

Oakland Athletics v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

“We talked a lot about just him not trying to do too much,” Martinez said, “and just staying on top of the baseball, and just trying to hit line drives throughout the field. Apparently, I got blown up a little bit talking about hitting ground balls. But the way you hit line drives is to try to hit ground balls. I don’t care what anybody says. I’ve been doing this a long time, seen a lot of great hitters, and it’s working, right? He’s hitting the ball better. I laugh at those kind of things. But you know, he’s really enjoying himself, and he’s in every at-bat, whether it’s left-handed pitching, right-handed pitching, you see him battling. Man, even with two strikes, he’s starting to get to understand what he needs to do with two strikes, and a lot of times I watch him and he gets jammed but he’s able to hit the ball and put it in the outfield, and to me that’s a good sign.

“I’ve seen a lot of good hitters with two strikes get jammed and get hits, that just tells me that he’s staying on the ball really good. He’s going to get better. The biggest thing is he’s going start to get stronger as he matures, and once he gets stronger I think you’re going to see those doubles and those homers come, but right now it’s just about staying in the middle of the field and hitting line drives, and getting on base. When he gets on base he’s electric. He makes things happen. But like I said, I love everything he’s doing right now.”

Call His Name:

Alex Call’s seven hits in two games (in the finale in St. Louis and the opener in Philadelphia) were one more than the 27-year-old outfielder collected in his first 14 games and 45 PAs in Washington after the Nationals claimed him off waivers from Cleveland on August 7th then called him up on August 14th after initially starting him off at Triple-A Rochester. Call’s had an opportunity to play over the last few weeks, though he finished the second of two with Baltimore in D.C. this week in an 0 for 14 stretch.

Call got his first start in center in Wednesday night’s matchup with the Orioles, with skipper Davey Martinez telling reporters before the game he wants to get a look at how Call does in a different spot.

“I want to see him play everywhere. He’s interesting to me. The kid plays, like I said, he plays with his hair on fire every day,” Martinez said, “... and he’s got a lot of energy, and I know he has played center before, so just want to swap those guys a little bit and let him play some center field and see what he does.”

MLB: SEP 06 Nationals at Cardinals

Why is Call “interesting” to Martinez, and, obviously, to the Nationals, who claimed him and are getting a look at what he has to offer in the final weeks of the 2022 campaign?

“Just he’s got — like I said before, when we got him we ran some different things on him,” Martinez said, “and he’s a guy that doesn’t really chase a whole lot, puts the ball in play, and can hit the ball. For a guy of his stature, he hits the ball a long ways, hits the ball hard, and like I said, he understands the game, knows how to play the game. I like that.”

“We’re looking for players. Players that can do multiple things. Whether he can play every day here or not, we’re trying to figure that out, but he’s a guy that could possibly do both, play 3-4 times a week, come off the bench, play all three outfield positions.

“I know he can run. He can steal a base when we need to. He’s interesting. Not only to me, but to this organization.”

GM Mike Rizzo is ... [checks notes] ... Pro Pitch Clock?:

MLB announced a number of rule changes for the 2023 season earlier this month, and the addition of a pitch clock (15 seconds with the bases empty, 20 with runners on base), is the one Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked about during his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past Wednesday.

Does he think the pitch clock will dramatically change the game?

“I think it will,” Rizzo told the Junkies.

“And I think if it’s implemented correctly and handled correctly, I think it will change the game in a positive way.

“If you’ve watched any minor league game — and I’ve watched a bunch of them — the pace of play is terrific.

“There’s way more action, way [less] dead time, and, to me, it’s a better game because we keep telling our pitchers work faster, get a flow, get a rhythm, set the pace, and that type of thing and we’re trying to get our pitchers to get on the mound, get the sign, throw the pitch, keep the infielders engaged, keep the game moving, get a good pace going and that type of thing. So, it’s going to be really interesting.”

Hitters will have to watch the clock too, of course, since they need to be in the box with eight seconds remaining on the clock, or they’re hit with an automatic strike.

“In theory, I like the [pitch clock] rule because it really, really works in the minor leagues,” Rizzo continued.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

“Now it’s all about how we’re going to implement it. How are the umpires going to handle it? How are the players going to react to it? And that type of thing.

“That’ll be the litmus test to me for this rule change. But in theory I really like it.

“I think it’s, to me, it’s one of the rules that I really endorsed because I like a quicker paced pitcher and, if you can handle the batter not stepping out and the pitcher not stepping off, I think it’s going to be a more entertaining game to watch. And it’s going to be a better game played. I think the defenses will be better, because who wants to sit around and 25, 30 seconds in-between each pitch, and step-offs, and batters stepping out of the box and that type of thing? I think this will improve the game.”

Also, where will all the clocks be? So the batters, umpires, hitters, fans, everyone, can see them?

“There’s gonna be clocks in a couple of positions,” Rizzo said. “I’m not exactly positive in Nats Park where it’s gonna be yet.

“Obviously, MLB and us will take care of the logistics of that. But yes, there will be visible clocks so the hitter and umpire behind the plate, and pitcher and players, can see it.”