“That’s exactly what we wanted to see, right?” Davey Martinez asked rhetorically after his club wrapped up their spring schedule with a 3-0 win over the New York Yankees in their exhibition game in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park on Tuesday.
Martinez was talking about the combined 7 2⁄3 scoreless innings he got from his starters, Trevor Williams and MacKenzie Gore, who piggybacked to get their final tune-ups in before they make their first regular season starts for the ballclub. What was working on Tuesday?
Martinez said he was happy to see both pitchers, “pound the strike zone.”
“They were good,” he said after four scoreless from Williams, the veteran righty who signed a 2-year/$13M deal with the Nats this winter, and 3 2⁄3 scoreless innings from Gore, the lefty who was acquired from San Diego’s Padres at the trade deadline last August. Gore returned to the mound in the minors, but did not start for the Nats in 2022 after he’d injured his left elbow right before the deal which sent both Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres in return for a prospect package which included Gore, shortstop C.J. Abrams, outfield prospects James Wood and Robert Hassell III, pitcher Jarlin Susana, and big league bat Luke Voit.
“They were really good,” Martinez of his pitchers, who were followed on the mound by left-hander Anthony Banda (1⁄3 IP) and righty Thaddeus Ward (1 IP). “With MacKenzie, he’s just — hey, he’s got to trust his fastball a little bit more. I don’t want him throwing a whole lot of breaking pitches. His fastball is live. Forget about the strikeouts, the strikeouts are going to happen, but when he throws his fastball like he does, and can throw it over the zone, it’s a really good pitch. But they were both really good.”
Gore threw 61 pitches, 38 for strikes, walking two and striking out four while giving up just one hit. He threw 48% fastballs, generating three swinging and seven called strikes with it, and mixed in his slider (34%), getting five swinging and two called strikes on the pitch, and he went to his curveball 10% of the time, and changeup 8%, with two swingings strikes on each pitch.
Williams threw 40% four-seamers according to Baseball Savant, 25% sinkers, 15% sliders, 10% curveballs, and 10% changeups, with 52 pitches total in four scoreless in which he’d walked two and struck out one, allowing just one hit in the outing.
As for the relievers?
“Had to get Banda in the game and Ward just to get them used to pitching here, and they were both fine,” Martinez said of the 29-year-old left-hander who is going to be the only lefty in the Nationals’ bullpen to start the season, and Ward, the Rule 5 pick from Boston’s Red Sox who’s set to make his MLB debut when he first gets in a game, and has to stick in Washington’s ‘pen all season or be offered back to the Sox.
Martinez would not officially say the two relievers are on the Opening Day roster though, since the club hasn’t made it official yet.
“Let’s just say they’ll be around for now,” he allowed.
The skipper, who’s set to start his sixth season on the bench in the nation’s capital, did give reporters some new news, however, confirming he’s lined up Patrick Corbin for the opener on Thursday, Josiah Gray for the second of three with Atlanta in D.C. on Saturday, and then Gore on Sunday, in the finale with the Braves before Williams makes his 2023 debut in their series opener with the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday.
Alex Call connected for his first home run of the spring in the second inning of Tuesday’s game, providing all the scoring the home team would need in the 3-0 win over New York.
Call wrapped up the exhibition season 18 for 56 (.321/.403/.464) with five doubles, eight walks, and 12 Ks in 23 games, and he’s set to start the season as the fourth outfielder for Washington, after hitting five homers in 35 games for the Nationals last season once he’d come over from Cleveland on a waiver claim.
“He’s been hitting the ball really well,” Martinez said, summing up what Call needs to do to be at his best with one word: “Chase.”
“When he gets the ball in the zone, he puts the bat on the ball,” the manager explained.
“He’s that little pest-y hitter where he works counts, he can foul some balls off, but he has to get the ball in the zone, when he does that he’s really good.”
Call’s name came up again when Martinez was asked about a point late in the game when he had Gore (24 years old) on the mound and Elijah Green, the 18-year-old 2022 1st Round pick, in the outfield, along with James Wood (20), the aforementioned outfielder acquired in the Soto/Bell deal with the Padres, providing a glimpse of a potential future when all three players will hopefully be in the majors together in D.C.
“It was pretty cool,” Martinez said of seeing Gore, Wood, and Green out there together on the field in Nationals Park, even if it wasn’t for long. “For a brief moment. But I’m excited about the guys we have now, right? We’ve got [Lane] Thomas, who I really believe will have a breakout year this year, [Victor Robles], who’s done well this spring, made some adjustments, you’ll have Alex [Call] and Corey [Dickerson] out there, but it’s a good group. But those guys are up-and-coming, we’re going to see them. It was nice to get them in the game and watch them, and I thought Elijah did a really good job working a walk, but they looked pretty good out there.”