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Washington Nationals news & notes: Reboot update; MacKenzie Gore update; Jake Alu ❤️

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Tuesday afternoon in the nation’s capital...

Reboot Update ... Status Pending:

They’ve lost 100 games. Some young players have gotten serious experience. Some of the fringe-type players on the roster have had an opportunity to show what they have to offer. Plenty of lessons have been learned. But there have been a lot of losses, and injuries, and it has been tough at times, for the players, coaches, fans, everyone following the Nationals in 2022. So where does manager Davey Martinez think things stand at this point in the reboot the club kicked off with a sell-off of expiring deals (and a year-plus of Trea Turner) at the ‘21 trade deadline?

“For me, the losing part of it, it’s hard to accept. It really is,” Martinez told reporters in D.C. in advance of last night’s matchup with Atlanta.

“Every night I go home and I think about what our expectations are moving forward, and that’s to get these guys better each and every day, and not to give up on them, and that’s something that I’ve never done, and I will never do. But for these guys, if you watch them play, you couldn’t tell me that they thought they’re out of it, or they thought they lost 100 games. They play hard every day, every inning, they never give up. And that says a lot about this group, and these young guys, that they’re hungry and they want to get better, and they want to make sure that when we get new players and — we establish something here right now, so when players come in they say, ‘Hey, look, we’re here to compete and win.’ And I like that about them. Because they talk about it. I hear them talking about it. And they want to win.”

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

They just, as expected, haven’t won much this season (MLB-worst .346 winning%), but their manager likes the effort and the growth he’s seen from the ballclub.

“Right now they’re trying to be spoilers, and interrupt some stuff,” he said. “Everything aside, I’ve had a lot of fun with this group, I really have, because they’re into it, and like I said, they do want to get better, and they do want to win games, and I’ve watched a lot of minor league games, and saw some of the younger players that we got, and you know, they’re going to be good. They’re going to be good.

“When we’re going to see them, who knows, but we’ve got some really talented young players. Some players that nobody even talks about really, and you keep watching them, and keep watching them develop, and some of them had pretty good years this year, and hopefully they move up to the next level, and they continue to grow and do the same thing and mature.

“That’s what are hopes are for, that within our organization that we can build something special here.”

An example of one of the lesser-known prospects in the organization who had a good year this year, and has moved up in the system? Jake Alu.

If you follow Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty, you’re probably familiar with the 25-year-old, 2019 24th Round pick out of Boston College, who has a combined .298/.365/.507 line with 40 doubles and 20 home runs in 131 games and 562 plate appearances between Double and Triple-A this season (and has put up a combined .286/.343/.461 line in his three minor league seasons). The big league skipper has definitely noticed.

“Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about him,” Martinez said.

“And they said he has hit. He’s hit everywhere he’s been. He’s really working on his defense.

“They put him at third base. I know the other day, I talked about second base, if he’s capable of playing second base, so they put him over there and he did well, but we want him to continue to play third base, second base, I even believe that he can play some left field as well. But he has hit, and I like the fact that he puts the ball in play.

“And he does have occasional pop, but for me he’s a doubles guy that can move the baseball.

“And that’s kind of intriguing for me moving forward. Still young. He’s definitely going to be with us next year, I don’t know if he’ll be in Spring Training or not, but I’d like to get eyes on him, and see what he does with us a little bit, so we’ll see what happens, but he’s had a tremendous year, so he should be proud of himself, but I have noticed, and we have noticed, and we’ve watched him, and like I said, we’re just trying to figure out what position is best for him moving forward.”

Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio Nelson Cruz?:

The inflammation in his eye(s) hasn’t subsided, and Nelson Cruz hasn’t played for the Nats now since September 13th. Will we see the 42-year-old, 18-year veteran again this season?

Have we seen the last of the slugger, who signed a 1-year/$15M deal in D.C. this past March in the nation’s capital?

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

“It’s hard to say,” Martinez told reporters yesterday. “I feel for him, because here’s a guy that was in the lineup every day for us, and he’s getting better, it’s just it’s always the blurriness, the focus, now it’s more of a combination of both, where sometimes it feels blurry, sometimes the focus isn’t there. He goes in the cage and he hits, and then it kind of comes back. So, I told him, I said, ‘I would love for you to one day come in and say, “Hey, I feel good, there’s nothing.’” I don’t want him to finish the season where he doesn’t get a couple few more at-bats, but if that’s the case, I’ve always said I’m not going to put him in unless he tells me and unless I deem that he’s ready to play. I just don’t want him getting hurt.”

Gorechester Update:

In his fourth rehab start with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, MacKenzie Gore retired the side in order in the first, then gave up a leadoff home run in the top of the second, before retiring the next six batters he faced, but things went all pear-shaped for the southpaw in the fourth inning on Monday night.

Gore, 23, gave up a one-out walk, a two-run home run, a two-out triple, and a two-run home run, and then back-to-back, two-out doubles, with the sixth earned run off of the left-hander scoring on the second of the two, two-base hits. He finished the start with 72 pitches (45 of them strikes) in 3 23 IP.

“I saw the reports,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters after the big league club’s 8-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves in D.C. “[Gore] got through three innings fairly well. Fourth inning was, again, once again, he lost command of his fastball, started getting everything up. But he threw [72] pitches, so that’s good.”

Was it enough for the Nationals, who were hoping to get him up to around five innings/75 pitches before bringing him up to the big leagues for the first time since he was acquired from the San Diego Padres in the Juan Soto/Josh Bell trade on August 2nd, shortly after he ended up on the Injured List with elbow inflammation in the weeks before the 2022 trade deadline?

“We’ll see,” Martinez said on Monday night in the nation’s capital.

“He’ll meet us back here, we’ll see how he’s feeling and then we’ll assess what we’re gonna do with him next.”

Gore spoke with reporters in Nationals Park on Tuesday, and said he felt good though things did get out of hand in the fourth.

“I feel fine,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“I just haven’t built up as quickly as I thought I would. The first three innings were good. The fourth, I just kind of ran out of gas.”

“He said he felt a little fatigued that last inning,” Martinez said in his own pregame meeting with reporters yesterday.

“So he’ll throw a bullpen again here in the next days, and then we’ll assess what we’re going to do with him next, but you know, the biggest thing I told him is, ‘When you feel that way, you really got to start thinking about using your legs. You’re going to get that way, and stay in your legs, and don’t forget, it’s more about your mechanics than anything else.’

“And he agreed and he said he’s going to work on stuff in the bullpen with [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey this next time around and then we’ll see how he’s doing.”

Is the fact he’s fatigued late in his outings, and hasn’t build up as quickly as expected at all surprising to the manager?

“No,” Martinez said. “I’ve always said. These guys that get hurt and miss a period of time, it’s Spring Training all over again for them. We saw with Aníbal [Sánchez], right? He thought he was ready. We kept pushing him to go make another rehab start, and then he finally — we got him up here, but he still didn’t feel the same for a while, and then all of a sudden, once he’s got his breath underneath him, he got his legs underneath him, he started pitching a lot better. And I explained that to MacKenzie as well. It’s not always easy to come back and compete and get that adrenaline going. For six, seven innings? It’s going to take time.

“I mean, you’re rebuilding right now. If you think about it, in Spring Training you get 6-7 starts, but you’re building up before that. So I said, ‘That’s what’s going to happen to you right now. So my biggest concern is still your health. How’s your arm feeling? How’s your body feeling? And he says he feels good. His arm will bounce back. And I said, ‘Well, we’ll get over that next hump here soon, but the good news is that you are feeling better, and you’re able to go out there every 5-6 days now and pitch.’”

Will he be able to get a start in at the major league level before the season’s over next week?

“I think he can,” Martinez said.

“But like I said, I want to make sure he throws his bullpen and we’ll see how he feels then. And I want him to throw kind of an extended bullpen, and then we’ll go from there.”

Aggressive Approach?:

Davey Martinez was asked after Miami Marlins’ righty Sandy Alcantara tossed eight strong against the Nationals on a total of 99 pitches, if his advice to his hitters about taking an aggressive approach early in their at-bats might have been ill-advised considering how the Fish starter was able to efficiently keep them in check, and the same questions came up on Monday night, after Atlanta Braves’ righty Bryce Elder tossed a complete game shutout on a total of 106 pitches.

Have Nationals’ hitters been a little too aggressive at times? Or has the manager liked the approach in spite of the results in those two losses?

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

“Part of that is what the pitcher is doing,” the fifth-year skipper explained on Monday night, following the club’s 100th loss of the 2022 season.

“He’s throwing strikes. And we got to be aggressive in the strike zone. But, when you’re throwing strikes, it’s hard enough to hit with two strikes. You want to try to get your best swing off early in the count.

“[Elder] threw strikes today. And when he got ahead of 0-2, I saw some guys — CJ [Abrams] had a good at-bat, with two strikes, got a base hit.

“Lane [Thomas], two strikes, got a base hit. But you got to be ready to hit right from the 0-0 count.

“Like I said, when you’re throwing that many strikes, you’re getting early contact. The thing is when you do get a ball to hit, try to hit it hard. But like I said, when you’re throwing that many strikes, you don’t want to get in a hole, you really don’t, you’ve got to be aggressive.”