Davey Martinez told reporters earlier this winter about videos he was getting from some of his players showing the work they were doing this offseason to get into shape after they all went through the grind of 2022’s 107-loss campaign and got a couple months of rest.
Luis García, in particular, stood out for the Washington Nationals’ skipper, who said the 22-year-old second baseman was shedding weight and working on agility over the winter and was at that point well into his offseason regimen.
“Luis looks great. Luis lost about nine pounds of body fat, nine percent of body fat. He looks really good.
“He took it to heart he needs to be more agile. He needs to be quicker on his feet. He looks great,” Martinez explained.
A leaner, more agile García, he said, would definitely help the club.
“It will be awesome,” Martinez said. “He’s got good hands. We talked a lot about him and his first step, and we think this will help him out a lot. It’s also going to help him run a little bit better.”
García’s speed, the manager said, could help him in the field and at the plate, where the club wants him to worry more about making solid contact than trying to hit home runs.
“As I told Luis, you definitely got some pop in your bat,” Martinez said, “but right now let’s just worry about the chases and putting the ball in play. You hit the ball hard when you do hit it, using the whole field. If you could hit 40 doubles, the results are going to be you’re probably hitting 20 home runs in the meantime.
“So that’s something that he wanted to work on this winter.”
García is also going to have to cover more ground this year in the shift-less era of the game MLB is ushering in with their rule change banning/regulating defensive shifts, so a quicker, more agile García is a valuable piece for the Nationals.
“He’s got to cover a lot, yeah,” Martinez joked. “Honestly, if you look at the other side, I think it’s going to help our hitting out as well with CJ [Abrams] and Luis and even Jeimer [Candelario], who I’ve known, who does hit the ball a lot in that hole. I think it’s going to help him out a lot as well.”
Asked for his own thoughts on the shift ban, Martinez said he did, obviously, expect to see a lot more balls get through the infield.
“I think we’re going to hit a little bit more, yeah,” he said with a laugh.
“You know what, I played in the era where there was no shifting, and I liked it. Hopefully our hitters will understand just to put the ball in play a little bit more, and we’ll start moving the ball a little bit better.”
The line of inquiry led to the following exchange during which Martinez summed up his own feelings about the rule changes.
Q. I don’t think there are too many players around who played without the shift, right?
DAVE MARTINEZ: I don’t think there’s hardly any anymore, yeah.
Q. It’s going to be weird.
DAVE MARTINEZ: It will be nice not to see the third baseman sprinting to right field.
Q. Or towards the stands to try and catch a pop that would have been an easy catch, right?
DAVE MARTINEZ: Or the pitcher running to third base trying to catch a pop-up.
Q. I’ve been talking to some guys like [Dodgers’ manager Dave] Roberts and people in L.A., they think they’re going to micromanage even without the shift.
DAVE MARTINEZ: I’m sure they are. Who knows? You might see a left fielder playing short right field.
I mean, there’s going to be people trying to figure out how to do things. There’s no rules that outfielders can’t move around.
And so the rules change, and the league adjusts and finds new ways to bend them without breaking them.