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Washington Nationals news & notes: Quick hits on Nats’ plans for 2023…

Quick hits from Davey Martinez’s press availability in West Palm Beach...

Joey Plan:

Before the Nationals signed Dom Smith to play first base in Washington, and before they added outfielder Corey Dickerson, who’s going to play some left field in D.C., manager Davey Martinez, at the Winter Meetings, talked about where the club wanted to play Joey Meneses on a daily basis in 2023 following the 30-year-old slugger’s breakout campaign in 2022.

“I would really like to keep Joey at first base, and the days that he doesn’t [play first base], DH him to give him a breather,” Martinez explained.

“I know he was a rookie, but he’s an older rookie. His days off probably would be DH’ing.

“If we could find someone who could possibly play first base and play some left field, that would be great.”

With Smith signed (to play first base on a daily basis), and Dickerson added (who’s played the majority of the time in left field in his career), how did the plans for where Meneses will play change?

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“Joey’s probably going to do a lot of bit of a little bit of everywhere, if that makes sense,” Martinez told reporters in West Palm Beach this week, with a laugh, acknowledging that somewhat garbled syntax.

“A lot of bit of a little bit of everywhere. He’s going to play some first, DH, left field, yeah. I thought I said that pretty good.”

Meneses posted a .286/.341/.489 line, 14 doubles, and 20 home runs in 96 games and 414 plate appearances at Triple-A in his first season in the Nationals’ system before the trade deadline last season, and he went 72 for 222 (.324/.367/.563) with 14 more doubles and 13 more home runs over 56 games and 240 PAs in the majors once he came up to the majors, so yeah, they’ll want his bat in the lineup a lot of a bit of a little bit.

“If he needs a day or two, we, obviously could cover, but yeah, we want his bat in the lineup every day,” Martinez explained.

Basically, Smith will play first most days, and Meneses and Dickerson (a left-handed bat who has had issues against lefties in his career) will both be in left field, ideally.

“There’s going to be days where Corey needs to DH, and [Meneses will] DH as well,” Martinez continued.

“Between those two they’ll play a little left field, against left-handed pitchers we could do something else, maybe get another couple right-handed bat against tough lefties in the lineup. We’ll see how this all plays out.”

Bonus Quote:

Q: What does Martinez think of Dominic Smith’s play at first base?

Davey Martinez: “He’s really good over there. Really good. I mean, [First Base & infield coach Tim Bogar] has done a great job with the guys over there, but this guy can play first base really well, so he’s definitely going to help out over there, and he also will help out Luis [Garcìa] as well over there.”

Make It; Stick:

With the No. 1 overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft back in December, the Nats selected Thaddeus Ward, a recently-turned 26-year-old, 2018 5th Round pick by the Boston Red Sox, who underwent Tommy John surgery back in 2021 but returned to the mound last season and made 13 starts total in 2022, posting a 2.28 ERA in 51 1⁄3 innings pitched overall between the Florida Complex League, A-ball, High-A, and Double-A in the Sox’ system.

Rule 5 picks, of course, need to stick with the team which selects them, or they have to be returned to the original team, so what convinced the Nationals that Ward can stick around in the majors for a full season?

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“He has the ingredients to pitch in the big leagues,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo said after the draft.

“He has four pitches that he can command. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a starting pitching candidate that we can stretch out and pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen, and we feel comfortable with the fact that he’ll allow Davey [Martinez] to utilize him throughout the season and have a chance to keep him.”

“He’ll come into Spring Training,” the GM explained. “We’re going to stretch him out so he can pitch multiple innings. I don’t know what that will morph into. He’s been a starter in his career, but we kind of see him right now as a multi-inning relief pitcher.”

What has Martinez seen from Ward early in Spring Training?

Does he think Ward will he be able to go out there and stick in the bullpen all year?

“Here’s a guy — we liked him because he’s a strike thrower,” Martinez said, “… and he’s got a really good slider, and a good two-seamer. So we want him to pound the strike zone. We talked to him about utilizing his changeup a little bit more, but he needs to be in the strike zone, that’s who he is. So, we’ll be looking for him throwing strikes, getting early outs, weak contact, so we’ll see how he fares.”

What’s the message for Ward, and how will he deal with the pressure of having to win a spot first and then stay in the majors this season if he’s going to remain with the Nationals?

“‘We drafted you, basically, right?” Martinez said as far as his message, a vote of confidence.

“‘You get a chance to come over here,’ but we drafted him because we wanted him. That’s basically how I explained it to him. ‘Look, we wanted you here, and you have an opportunity to come here and do some good things, so just relax and have fun, and go out there and you be you. But your stuff is good, your stuff plays, and you’re going to get better, so just relax, and anything you need from us, we’re here to help you.’”

2022? What Was That?:

Davey Martinez is Mr. Go 1-0 Every Day, Mr. Stay in the Moment. So ... how have he and the Nationals moved on from 2022’s 55-107 season and how have the returning players all put it behind them as they try to move forward with the organizational reboot the club kicked off at the trade deadline in 2021?

“Honestly, I really wiped the slate clean from last year. I really did,” Martinez told reporters early in Spring Training this month. “And I’m focused on more today, being where my feet are. The exciting thing about this year, I get to have CJ [Abrams] for a full year, [starting] at Spring Training, MacKenzie [Gore], full year, so I’m really excited about all those guys being here for the full year, and we are going to get better. Having CJ playing shortstop, we’re going to be better defensively. I’m excited about Luis [García]. Luis has been up and down for three years. Barring nothing goes wrong, he gets an opportunity to play second base every day for us. He looks great. Came to Spring Training, he took everything to heart that we asked him to do before the season was over.

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“So I’m looking forward to watching him playing and get a full season with us as well.

“I’m excited about this group. Our pitching — our young pitchers look very promising. I think [Patrick] Corbin is going to have a really bounce back year. We added Trevor [Williams], who I love, because he’s so competitive. And he’s such a good clubhouse guy. I’ve seen him, I know him. Adding [Dominic Smith], [Jeimar Candelario], these guys are all going to be good for our club right now, so I’m really, really excited about this year.”

How tough was 2022 for the young core in D.C., and what can they take away from the season that might help them in the future?

“Learn from what happened last year,” Martinez said. “And let’s move forward. You guys are all going to have an opportunity to do something special, and most of you guys are going be here together for a long time, so let’s build from this, and let’s get ready for [the 2023 season], and let’s go knock the door down.”