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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Nelson Cruz’s eye, MacKenzie Gore on Friday night + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Saturday afternoon...

Cruz’s Eye:

Nelson Cruz, who was not in the starting lineup yesterday, and has not played since the 13th of September now, has been dealing with inflammation in his eye, as Davey Martinez said in his pregame meeting with reporters before the second of two with the Orioles in D.C. earlier this week.

“He’s got inflammation in his eye. They gave him some drops, so hopefully it’ll help him over the next 24 to 48 hours,” Martinez explained.

“It’s a weird thing. I mean, he went and saw an eye specialist, and it’s just inflammation. So we’ll see how he feels after he takes these drops, but he’s gonna be day-to-day.”

“He’s still working — they got these drops that they put in,” Martinez said on Friday, when he was asked for an update on the 42-year-old, 18-year veteran.

“He’s still feels a little irritated, so it’s going to be a day-to-day thing until these drops work.”

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

On Saturday afternoon, Martinez had a somewhat positive update.

“He’s doing a little bit better,” the manager said, before hedging a bit, “... about the same.

“His eye is still about the same. I’m hoping that — he hit yesterday a little bit, said it was a lot better.

“We’ll see how he feels today, if he’s available to pinch hit today it would be great.”

Asked if he could shed any more light on exactly what the issue is, Martinez tried to explain.

“The way they described it to me was like an inflammation of his eye,” he said, “... so they gave him special drops, like an antibiotic drop, I think he’s supposed to put it in there for I think for seven days.”

Gorechester Update:

In his second rehab start as he works his way back from elbow inflammation which landed him on the IL when he was still with San Diego, before he was included in the trade which sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Nationals to the Padres, MacKenzie Gore, 23, tossed 2 23 scoreless on a total of 57 pitches (32 of them strikes), giving up four hits and two walks but no runs before he was done for the night with Washington’s top minor league affiliate on Friday.

“First couple innings went well,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said, relaying the reports he received from Triple-A Rochester.

“Third inning had a little trouble throwing strikes, [velocity] was down a little bit, but overall they said he threw the ball well.

“So we’re going to get him back here again, he’ll work out with us, and then we’ll see what’s going on. He’ll throw another bullpen and then from there, we’ll see if we can get him back out and stretch him out again. I haven’t talked to him yet, waiting to talk to him one-on-one to see how he really felt.”

Gore was one of the five prospects included (along with veteran batter Luke Voit) in the six-player package the Padres sent the Nationals in return for Soto and Bell, in spite of the fact he was on the IL at the time with the elbow issue, and he’s been working his way back since joining the organization in the hope he can make another start in the majors before the end of the season.

It’s been a while since his last big league start, however, back on July 25th, so Martinez said he was not too concerned about the velocity dropping late in Gore’s latest outing.

“When you’re out for a while, part of the rehab is getting yourself back in rhythm, you know?” he said.

“And like I said ... the first inning was very clean — they said — second inning was clean, he walked a batter, and then the third inning was when he really [had] issues. And that can be just a little bit fatigued, not staying on his legs a little bit, and that can easily be corrected by going out there and continuing to build up, but we’ll get him back here, I know he talked a little bit with [Pitching Coach Jim Hickey] about some of the things he wants to continue to work on in the bullpen, so he’ll come back and work on those things, and then we’ll get him back out there, but the velo was pretty good [last night], better than it was the other day. He was anywhere from 94-96, but towards the end there he was sitting steady about 93-94, but that’s encouraging as well.”

Same Thing With Fedde:

“Just same thing with Fedde,” manager Davey Martinez said after Erick Fedde’s 3 23-inning, 79-pitch outing against the Philadelphia Phillies on the last road trip, in which the 29-year-old, 2014 1st Round pick gave up five hits, four walks, and four earned runs in an 8-5 loss.

“Just falling behind, not throwing strikes, pitch count just builds up, and he puts himself in a jam when he goes out there — so we got to continue to talk to him about putting hitters out early in counts,” the manager added.

“When he gets ahead, those 0-2 to 3-2 counts have got to go away. Especially in a ballpark like this [Citizens Bank Park], you start falling behind bad things can happen, and we saw that tonight.”

Seven days later, before Fedde took the mound against the Marlins last night in the second of three with Miami in D.C., the Nats’ skipper talked again about the right-hander needing a way to finish those at-bats when he gets ahead of opposing hitters before he takes the next steps in his development.

“I really want to see him control the strike zone, like I said, when he gets to 0-2, just throw competitive pitches after that, and try to get quick outs,” Martinez told reporters when he spoke before the game.

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“His stuff is good. I’ve always said that,” but, “he just puts himself in a bind by falling behind, especially when he works so hard to get ahead and throw strike one, but there’s been a lot of counts where he’s been 0-2, and he goes up to 3-2, you know? So I harp on it all the time, but that’s — for me that’s going to be his big thing, whether he can correct that, get out of innings, and not have big innings, you know, limit innings, limit runs in an inning if he gives up any, and then go from there, but I still believe that here’s a guy that can get us through six-plus innings with under 100 pitches, but like I said, once he gets a hitter 0-2, he’s got to work on that third or fourth pitch, not to be so far-fetched where he’s looking for a swing and miss, more looking for, hey, just get the ball in a place where we feel like there’s less SLG, and try to get the ball either in play, or when he does that he has a good potential of striking guys out because his stuff is good.

“But when your misses are really bad, and you go 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, and then now you’re fighting to get an out, it’s tough.”

Fedde gave up seven hits and three runs (no walks is a positive) in four innings of work on Saturday afternoon, and he threw 87 pitches (56 strikes) to the 18 batters he faced, and he left the mound with the Nationals up 4-3 in the 5th.

Fedde recorded just five swinging strikes, but did get 15 called strikes (9 on his sinker) and Miami’s hitters fouled off 21 of 87 pitches, to help run his count up and end his outing a bit earlier than he or his manager probably liked.

“Fedde struggled to get us five innings, just the pitch count, like we always talk about,” his manager said in Martinez’s post game press conference.

“He fell behind a lot of hitters today, and he worked through it, but I mean, the pitch count gets up there for him, and we have no choice but to get him out.

“Especially we’re in September now, so it’s something that we really got to address moving forward is getting him to understand pitch efficiency, and how important it is for him to go out there and pitch six innings for us.”

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Martinez said the percentage of foul balls (24%) which ran his pitch count up were another symptom of Fedde’s struggles putting hitters away when he gets ahead.

“Yeah, the thing for me is [being] behind in the counts, right? Where if he’s 2-1, you know he’s got to throw a pretty good pitch to get the count to 2-2, and then once he gets to 2-2, it is the foul balls, and it is the — but it’s his misses that are really — for me it’s his misses are not, they’re not like competitive misses. They’re usually balls way high, balls way outside, so he’s got to understand, and I tell him all the time, your stuff is really good, but you got to throw the ball over the plate. I mean, you really do. It’s got to be over the plate, it’s got to be in, out, whatever, up, down, but over the white line. I mean, hitters are good, and with two strikes, a lot of these guys, especially these guys, they don’t look to — with two strikes, they just look to put the ball in play, hit the ball, so you’re going to get those foul balls, but if he constantly works ahead, and not behind, he can save a lot of pitches.”

Robles Still Learning:

Before he started in the series opener with Miami on Friday, Victor Robles, 25, hadn’t started a game since September 7th, as he dealt with a neck issue, which led to a late scratch in St. Louis, and at least in part kept the outfielder off the field in recent games.

“Yeah, he had the neck issue for a few days, more than a few days,” Davey Martinez said in his pregame press conference on Friday afternoon in the nation’s capital, “and then Alex [Call] started playing really well, so I wanted to see him play, now we got an opportunity to get [Robles] back in there. So, he’ll be back in there today, and possibly tomorrow, but like I said, I want to see a lot of these other guys play. Alex has done well. As you know Lane has done really well, [Joey] Meneses has played really well, but I’m going to give [Robles] an opportunity to play today, and we’ll see how he does and hopefully he’s out there and he helps us win a game today, and we’ll see how he does.”

Going into the game, Robles had a .224/.283/.305 line, nine doubles, two triples, and four home runs in 115 games and 349 plate appearances, over which he’d drawn 17 walks, and piled up 87 Ks, stealing 14 bases in 16 attempts in his sixth big league campaign.

Some things haven’t changed though. The lack of solid contact, the power numbers not being where the club expected based on his success early in his career, the baserunning gaffes, mistakes in the outfield.

Robles has had time to clean up those aspects of his game, and still...

“I know what he can do, I know things haven’t worked out for him thus far, but we’re much better when he plays center field,” Martinez said.

“I understand that and I know that, the rest of the game for him, he needs to start doing the right things, that’s what we’re looking for. So he needs to start running the bases correctly, he needs to start throwing to the right bases, he needs to start doing the little things. When he does that — we won [the World Series] with Victor as our center fielder, and he did really well that year [in 2019], so we want to get him back to that, and not by any means have I given up on him, but he needs to understand that he needs to get better and be a complete ballplayer.”

How do they go about stressing the need to clean up the mental errors, and reinforce the need to stop making the same mistakes again and again?

“For me [it’s him] thinking about the situations, right?” Martinez said. “Understanding the game, understanding before the ball is hit to you where to throw the ball. I know he’s overly aggressive — knowing when to run and when not to run, things of that nature, we’ve talked to him about it, but he’s got to start performing that way, knowing when to bunt, if we give him the bunt sign, getting signs, all that stuff, all that stuff plays, and he needs to start doing it consistently.”

Robles went 1 for 2 with an RBI on a sac fly in the Nationals’ 5-4 win over the Marlins Friday night, and he homered to put the Nats up 4-3 after four in the 2nd of 3 in D.C. on Saturday.