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Washington Nationals news & notes: CJ Abrams walks off; Josiah Gray not done? Mike Rizzo quotes...

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

Abrams’ Walk-off Winner ... After Mistake:

CJ Abrams had a big game on Wednesday, going 3 for 5 at the plate with the third hit the first walk-off winner of his career. Abrams, 21, went down for a changeup out of the zone, low, from Braves’ reliever Jackson Stephens and lined it to right for the game-winner, but there was the play in the eighth, where he sent a weak grounder back to the mound right back to reliever AJ Minter, then didn’t exactly hustle to first, only to have Minter throw the ball high, pulling first baseman Matt Olson off the bag.

Abrams took a few quick steps as Olson recovered and lunged for the first base bag with his glove, beating the runner (upon review) to the bag.

Davey Martinez, the Nationals’ manager, didn’t like it. Not one bit. And he let Abrams know.

“I can tell you right now he was frustrated. He got a little bit of my not-so-good side, so it won’t happen again,” Martinez told reporters after Abrams redeemed himself (a bit) later.

Abrams stayed focused, and in extra innings, won the game for the Nationals.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“We got a good one in him, we really do,” Martinez said of the 21-year-old acquired from San Diego is the Juan Soto/Josh Bell trade at the deadline. “He’s getting better. Those little things like that can’t happen. I told him, I said, ‘You get on base right there, good things happen, because you can steal, you can do a lot of things for us.’ It’s never going to happen again.”

“That can’t happen. I talked to Davey about it. Won’t happen again for sure,” Abrams said in his own post game scrum with reporters.

The speedy young shortstop provided another glimpse of the talent he possesses, while he also learned a lesson about giving 100% at all times (or whenever possible) out on the field in the majors. To end the night with a walk-off winner rather than with frustration was also a big moment for the infielder.

“He’s going to have many more,” Martinez said after Abrams’ first career walk-off hit. “But it was good for him, especially after the baserunning thing. He comes back, he puts it aside and he gets after that at-bat and gets a big base hit for us. That’s good. It’s good to see that. Like I said, he stayed in the game, stayed poised, and other than that he played really well all game.”

Gray Zone:

Going into Wednesday’s series finale with Atlanta in the nation’s capital, Washington’s 24-year-old starter, Josiah Gray, was up to 142 23 innings pitched on the season, above where he’d been before in a full season of pro ball (previous high, 130 IP in ‘19 in LA’s system), and up significantly over the 86 13 IP he threw between the Dodgers and Nationals in 2021, with the right-hander missing time with a shoulder impingement before he was included in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner deadline deal between the two teams.

Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez has talked for weeks/months now about managing Gray’s work to try to get him through the full season, and they’re just about there, so it came up again in the fifth-year manager’s pregame press conference on Wednesday afternoon as their starter prepared for his 28th start of the year (his 2nd against the Braves).

“He’s going to go out there and pitch, really, and see how he does today,” Martinez told the reporters in Nationals Park.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“Like I said, we’re pushing over 150 innings with him now. I look at it two ways: One, the fact that he feels really good, his body feels good, there haven’t been any real setbacks for him.

“And two, is moving forward next year. I’ve always said you add 20-25% of innings moving forward, so if we had to push him next year to 180-190 innings this might be good for him.

“So we’ll see — like I said, we’ll see how he does today, we’ll see how he feels today, and then we’ll go from there.”

Gray saved his best for (maybe?) last, going six strong against Atlanta on Wednesday night in which he held the postseason-bound Braves to a run on two hits and two walks in an 85-pitch, 55-strike effort, giving up his MLB-leading 38th home run, and striking out two, while recording eight swinging and 16 called strikes. He finished the night at 148 23 IP on the year.

“He’s making it tough,” Martinez said when asked if Gray reached his limit for 2022.

“He really is. Because he wants to finish the season. We’ll see how he’s doing in the next couple days.”

Quick Hits - Mike Rizzo And The Sports Junkies:

In his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past Wednesday, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo touched on a variety of subjects, including how weather affected the club’s plans for their prospects in the Instructional League in West Palm Beach, FL, with Hurricane Ian then just making landfall in Florida, MacKenzie Gore’s fourth rehab start, James Wood’s run with Class-A Fredericksburg following the Juan Soto/Josh Bell trade with the Padres, and how a potential sale of the Nationals might affect the club’s plans to try to build a contender for 2023 in the offseason. Here are some quick notes and quotes:

Instructs:

Nationals’ prospects gathered in West Palm Beach, FL for the Instructional League recently, but with Hurricane Ian fast-approaching, the organization decided to wrap things up early so the prospects could leave the area and head to their respective homes for the offseason.

MLB: Washington Nationals-Workouts Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

“We had recently made the decision to cancel the remainder of Instructional League which was about another five days left because of the dangers of the weather and stuff,” Rizzo told the Junkies.

“We’re entrusted with these parents’ children,” he explained.

“They’re players — and even though they’re adult children, they’re people that we worry about, so we err on the side of their safety and health each and every time.”

Gorechester:

Will we see MacKenzie Gore, another of the young players acquired in the Soto/Bell deal with the Padres, in the majors this season?

Gore, a southpaw, went on the IL with inflammation in his left elbow while he was still with San Diego, and he’s been working his way back.

In his fourth rehab start for Triple-A Rochester, he went 3 23 innings on 72 pitches overall, struggling in his final inning of work in the fourth before he was lifted.

“I saw the reports,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters earlier this week. “[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.”

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Martinez said previously they wanted to get the lefty up to 5/75 before they brought him up to the majors, and there is time to get one start in before the end of the regular season, but no one is committing to anything yet.

Rizzo told the Junkies he thought Gore’s rehab was going well, all things considered.

“It’s going well. He threw — I think it was 3 23, [72] pitches, zipped through the first three innings and kind of hit a wall in the fourth inning, gave up a couple of home runs and that type of thing, but left the game healthy.

“He threw yesterday, he played catch yesterday, and we’ll see after his bullpen today where he fits in and if he’s healthy, I would expect to see him sometime in one of the last handful of games down the stretch here.”

Good Wood:

James Wood, 20 (and already 6’7’’, 240 lbs.) put up solid numbers at Class-A Fredericksburg following the trade which brought him from the Padres’ to the Nats’ minor league system in early August, playing 21 games down the stretch over which he put up a .293/.366/.463 line with eight doubles and two home runs in 93 plate appearances (though he did miss some time with a knee issue).

In 50 games and 236 PAs with San Diego’s A-ball affiliate before the trade deadline deal, the 2021 2nd Round pick put up a .337/.453/.601 line with 19 doubles and 10 home runs.

Overall, it’s been an impressive season for the young outfielder, who was ranked the third overall prospect in the Nationals’ system following the trade by MLB’s Pipeline scouts.

Rizzo’s take on Wood’s big season?

“He’s an A+,” the GM told the Junkies. “He’s had a terrific season both in the Padres’ system and in our system. He’s a dynamic player, very young for the league, and more than held his own. You couple that with what a terrific teammate and player he was. He’s got such kind of an easy-breezy competitive attitude and make-up. This guy has got a chance to be a really good player, and we’re happy that he’s a National, and our expectations for James are high.”

Potential Sale Impact:

Rizzo told the Junkies he thinks the club will be aggressive this winter, and they’ll make the usual “prudent” moves as they try to build a competitive roster for 2023, whether via trade or the free agent market, supplementing the in-house talent in the majors and minors, but the Lerner family continues to entertain offers for the team, after deciding to explore a potential sale earlier this season, so will the process they’re going through now affect what the GM can do over the winter?

MLB-Game three of the NLCS between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Rizzo doesn’t think it will.

“I think ownership is going to do what we do annually, [which] is after the season we’re going to take an autopsy of the team,” the GM in D.C. said, to decide, “where [are our] strengths and what we need to get better. We will be in concert with them on the payroll, [what] they want [it] to be, what we’re going to do in the minor leagues, what upgrades we’re going to make, and as of right now it’s business as usual. We won’t change a thing of what we’ve been doing, and if something does change, then obviously we’ll make adjustments from that.”