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Washington Nationals news & notes: Rebuild, Reboot, Reset

Catching up on the early talk from Spring Training in West Palm Beach, FL.

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals Workouts
Feb 16, 2023; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez (4) talks to bullpen coach Ricky Bones (25) during a spring training workout at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Great Reset:

Davey Martinez on Wednesday praised the work ethic on display from all the players who arrived in West Palm Beach, Florida for the start of Spring Training, some of them in advance of the official report date.

“For me, honestly, it feels like Day 25,” the Nationals’ skipper joked. “A lot of guys have been here early. Very enthusiastic. Their work ethic has been really, really good for a few weeks, even though today was Day 1. Seeing everybody together, getting everybody into the ‘Circle of Trust’, talking to them guys, a lot of energy today, which was awesome, it was a lot of fun. And getting to meet the new guys and talk to them face-to-face was pretty awesome as well.”

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals Workouts Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

There are new faces in FITTEAM Ballpark in addition to the young, returning core* of the Nats’ organization, with free agent signings, prospects, and NRI’s all in camp looking to earn a spot on Washington’s Opening Day roster, and the manager in the nation’s capital said he told all of the holdovers to forget about 2022 and focus on the task at hand as they move forward and continue to build, with the 2023 season sure to provide plenty of opportunities to establish or in some cases reestablish themselves in the big leagues.

“It’s definitely a reset,” Martinez told reporters. “And for me it’s about — this year, it really is about opportunity, right? We got a lot of young guys that are going to get an opportunity. Veteran guys that we brought in that we thought could fit and are going to get opportunity to play every day. This Spring Training, as I mentioned, it’s about opportunity for these guys to come out here and get an opportunity to better their careers, to help the Washington Nationals win. So I’m really looking forward to that. The core* group itself, pretty interesting. We got some really good young athletes. We have guys that we have here for the first time. You know, that are here, and the younger guys that get a full Spring Training and then get a full year in. That to me is exciting. Hopefully they learned a lot last year, and they can build off of that, and we get them going and get them going right from the beginning of the season.”

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals Workouts Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s In That Core Group?:

Davey Martinez and Co. in the Nats’ front office have talked often about their core group of young players in the organization since kicking off their rebuild, reboot, reset, whatever, at the trade deadline in 2021, and they’ve been building back up since, adding to the talent at the ‘22 deadline and in the first-year and international drafts in the last two-plus years. But at this stage in their development, who does the manager see as part of the “core” group?

“My core group has a lot to do with some of the guys we acquired last year in the trade,” both the trade which sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to San Diego last August and the deal the previous season which sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to LA, Martinez said. “The guys — Josiah [Gray], Keibert [Ruiz], CJ [Abrams], Luis García, who had been here — who I think after going up and down, up and down — I think this might be a breakout year for him. Hopefully [Victor] Robles puts it all together this year. But those guys to me. And then you bring in guys like Dom Smith, Trevor [Williams], Jeimer [Candelario] who I’ve had a long relationship with, back to the Cubs days, those guys are hungry. These guys had some success in the big leagues for some time and last year they had down years, but we really believe in those guys, and we think that they’re going to help our young group out and help us win games. So I’m really excited about these guys. We got a lot of guys potentially that are going to be here for a very long time, and I’m excited to be here with these guys, and like I’ve said, watch their growth and get them to understand, ‘Hey, now is the time.’”

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals Workouts Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Martinez doesn’t want his club thinking about the organization’s reboot, or any other thing but performing on the field this season.

“Everybody talks about ‘24, ‘25. No, let’s focus on ‘23 and show everybody that, hey we’re going to go out there and compete,” he continued. “Last year I think our young group did a really good job of going out there and playing really hard. We just couldn’t finish, finish what we started sometimes, or started even slow and couldn’t catch up.

“But I think this year you’re going to see different guys. These guys were not happy when they lost all those games last year, I can tell ya. So they’re hungry, and they want to win, so I’m looking forward to getting the group together, getting 26 guys together and going out there and competing.”