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Washington Nationals news & notes: Mackenzie Gore sim game; CJ Abrams continues improving + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability from St. Louis...

Positive Step For Gore:

Before the second of four with the Cardinals in St. Louis last night, MacKenzie Gore, 23, got on the mound in Busch Stadium and threw a sim game with his new teammates stepping in against him.

The left-hander, acquired from San Diego in the deal which sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres at the trade deadline, is working his way back from the inflammation in his left elbow which landed him on the IL shortly before he was dealt.

Gore faced Josh Palacios, Riley Adams, and Alex Call in the sim game, and he came out of it feeling good about where he’s at as he works to see if he can return to the mound in the big leagues this season.

“Big step in the right direction,” Gore told reporters in the Cards’ home. “Felt good. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but feel good and definitely moving in the right direction.”

“He threw two innings, 37 pitches. He felt good after. So he’ll get back on the mound three days from now, and then we’ll see how he feels, and we’ll reassess,” skipper Davey Martinez told reporters in his pregame press conference.

Gore will go through his usual routine, and the next step will be the usual between-starts bullpen session he’d throw if he was in the rotation.

“He’ll throw a bullpen and we’ll see how he feels after that, and then if he’s feeling good and up to it, then it might be a possibility we send him out on rehab assignment,” Martinez said.

“I liked the way it felt,” Gore said of the sim game. “But everything just wasn’t great today.

“Which is — that’s probably how it’s going to be the first time back out. There was a lot of good today.”

“I’d say threw maybe 75-80% today. He was throwing the ball well,” Martinez said when he was asked how close Gore was to letting it eat.

The southpaw said he was just happy to get back on a mound and face hitters after a long time off.

“It had been a while,” he acknowledged. “And just seeing the shapes of everything, and how the ball’s coming out, so definitely getting better each time [I] get on the mound.

“But there’s still some work to do.”

Now, of course, they’ll see how he reacts to this latest test before moving forward.

“[We’ll] see how he wakes up tomorrow. If there’s no soreness or just minimal soreness, and he goes and throws his bullpen and he feels good, then we’ll crank him up a little bit more,” Martinez explained.

But the fifth-year manager liked what he saw of Gore’s stuff in a small sample size in St. Louis on Tuesday.

“Yeah. His fastball is live at the end, it’s got a little bit of zip at the end, his slider was good, and his changeup is really good,” Martinez said.

“I’m excited to get him back out there, I really am. But like I said, it’s a process that we’re going to stick to and make sure that he’s ready.”

“Today was a big step,” Gore added. “Going out there and feeling the way I felt, much better than I felt the last game I threw.

“So I think it’s all kind of doing that as we take each step and feel good doing each step.”

Abrams Starting To Shine:

CJ Abrams went 4 for 5 with two runs scored in the Nationals’ 6-0 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis on Monday, and Washington’s 22-year-old shortstop was 7 for 13 in his previous three games at that point, picking things up at the plate following a slow start once he was acquired from San Diego’s Padres at the trade deadline early last month.

“We’ve talked a lot about him staying behind the baseball, and really not trying to do too much,” Davey Martinez told reporters after the Nats’ 6-0 win over the Cards in the opener.

“I talked to him about just hitting hard ground ball, 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.”

Abrams, who’d struck out 13 times over his first 13 games with his new team, had struck out just once in the last six games after Monday’s game.

“He’s letting the ball get deeper, because he’s allowing himself to get on top of the baseball, so he can wait a little longer,” Martinez explained, “so like I said, he loves the fact that we’re trying to teach him the right way, and he embraces it, and like I said, I love talking to him, I love having him around. He’s very upbeat.

“As you can see, those guys on the field, between him, Luis [García], and [Ildemaro] Vargas, those guys have a lot of fun out there.”

With the confidence he’s going to be in the lineup every day, and reminders from his new coaches, Abrams is starting to see what the Nationals are trying to do with him, and he is applying it in the field and at the plate in game action.

“He’s getting a chance to play every day, we talked to him. I said, ‘For me, I don’t care what you do, you’re going to play every day until I feel like you need a day off, and I said, ‘We’re going to work on some different things with you, offensively, defensively, baserunning,’ he’s very in tune to what to do on the bases, but like I said, it’s a teaching moment every day with him, and it’s been awesome.”

There was undoubtedly a good deal of pressure on Abrams, as the first prospect included in the deal which sent Soto (and Bell) to the Padres to start regularly for the Nationals, but his manager said the young infielder has handled it all well.

Washington Nationals v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

“We got him here, I didn’t put any expectations on him whatsoever, and we talked about that, ‘You’re going to come here and play, you’re going to be our shortstop. We’re going to take baby steps with you. I just want you to go out there and have fun. Like I said, you’re going to play every day until I deem that you need a day off, but you go out there and have fun.

“‘I want to watch you play, I want to watch how you go about your daily routine, and we’ll get some work in.’ And he’s been really good with everything.”

Before Tuesday’s game with the Cardinals, Martinez said he’s seen a lot of progress from the young shortstop since he joined the Nationals, but there’s plenty of work to be done.

Martinez talked early in Abrams’ time with the club about eventually moving him up in the order as he gets more comfortable, but he said they aren’t there yet.

“We’re still — we’re still working on some things with him, but he’s swinging the bat well, he really is, and he’s starting to grasp what we’re trying to get him to do, so for right now we’re going to keep him down there, and again, let him see as many pitches as possible, let him be aggressive, and we feel like he should be, but he’s doing awesome.

“And what I love is he’s not taking his at-bats to the field. We talked a lot about just there’s two parts to this game, and one is fielding, and one is hitting.

“So once you’re hitting you focus on your hitting, and when you’re out in the field you focus on your defense, and he’s been doing that really well.”

With Luis García back now too, fans (and the Nationals’ manager) are getting a good look at what their next years could hold, with the middle infield of the (present and) future playing every day down the stretch.

“It’s awesome,” Martinez said of watching the duo work and grow together before Tuesday’s game with the Cards.

“As every day goes by, I’m watching those two guys and how well they communicate with one another, how well they handle each other, and it’s been a lot of fun. And they enjoy each other’s company a lot, they really do. You see them out there, and you see them laughing, you see them — but yet you see them in-tune of what’s going on, I see them talking a lot about what balls they’re going for, so it’s been fun watching those two guys work together.”

Meneses To Society:

Joey Meneses played 10 seasons in the minors, and traveled the world playing baseball as he worked towards his first opportunity in the majors, and GM Mike Rizzo, who signed the 30-year-old first baseman/outfielder this winter, and gave him his first opportunity to play major league ball, talked with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last week about how a career spent traveling the globe to keep playing fashioned Meneses into the hitter he is.

“He’s hit in so many different leagues,” Rizzo told the Junkies. “He played in the Mexican League where he sees a lot of offspeed, soft stuff, changeups and breaking balls, then in Triple-A where you see the velocity. He’s really become an accomplished hitter at the big league level.”

Going back to his debut on August 2nd, Joey Meneses was 40 for 118 (.339 AVG), with six doubles, seven home runs, 16 RBIs, five walks, and 20 runs scored over 29 games, and he hit safely in 25 of the 29 games before last night. He doubled the first time up, but he was stranded.

Washington Nationals v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

“According to Elias Sports Bureau,” as the Nationals highlighted in the pregame notes for last night’s game, “Meneses is the 9th player in the modern era (since 1900) with at least seven home runs and a .350 batting average over his first 25 MLB games.”

“The others: Mandy Brooks (.398, 9 HR for 1925 Cubs), Willie McCovey (.381, 7 HR for 1959 Giants), George Scott (.351, 10 HR for 1966 Red Sox), Shane Spencer (.390, 8 HR for 1998 Yankees), Albert Pujols (.365, 8 HR for 2001 Cardinals), Jeff Francoeur (.400, 8 HR for 2005 Braves), Yasiel Puig (.417, 7 HR for 2013 Dodgers), and Gary Sanchez (.389, 11 HR for 2015-2016 Yankees).”

Not bad company.

His manager in D.C., Davey Martinez, has been impressed with the whole package.

“Joey has been good all the way around, and I love that he comes in, he gets his work in, he watches video, he’s very in-tune to what’s going on and he has a plan every time he steps in that box. So, he’s been a lot of fun to watch,” Martinez said.

Martinez echoed Rizzo’s sentiments when he was asked how all of the experience Meneses got working his way up has paid off once he got his big league opportunity.

“He’s very calm. He doesn’t get too overwhelmed with anything. He just goes out and takes it pitch by pitch, at-bat by at-bat, and that’s awesome to see.”

Meneses doubled again to lead off the ninth last night, 2 for 4, but the Nationals dropped the second of four in the Cards’ home by a final score of 4-1.