Martinez Managing Young Nationals:
Luis García was in the midst of a mini-slump before he got two consecutive days off over the weekend in the series with the Tigers, three with the off-day on Monday, and manager Davey Martinez talked before the finale with Detroit in Nationals Park about keeping the 22-year-old infielder sharp and focused as the season goes forward.
“I had a conversation with him,” Martinez explained. “This is just kind of a reset for him. Like I said yesterday, he’s playing well. We want to continue to have him play well. I just want to make sure that he doesn’t — he wears a lot on his sleeve when he doesn’t hit. So I just gave him a little breather, reset. Tomorrow, we get a scheduled day off, and then he’ll be back in there Tuesday.”
Garcìa was 2 for 17 (.125/.177/.125) over his previous four games, with a walk and six Ks in 17 plate appearances, so the Nats’ skipper decided a couple days of strategic rest was the way to go, and on Sunday he also sat shortstop CJ Abrams and catcher Keibert Ruiz, two more of the pillars of the franchise reboot amongst position players.
The sixth-year skipper was asked in his pregame press conference Sunday morning about the balance he tries to strike with his younger players in trying to get them the experience they need right now as the club continues to build their next competitive team.
“They’re getting plenty of experience,” he said. “If you think about it, these guys don’t play 162 games a year in the minor leagues. They played 140 games. So giving them days off, getting them days off to kind of get them reset. Today was definitely a day where I wanted to make sure Abrams and Ruiz had a day, ‘cause they get two days and they come back Tuesday. It’s hard to play this game for 162 days. So we’ve got to figure out ways to get them off their feet.”
Ruiz too had a rough couple weeks at the plate, going 10 for 60 (.167/.227/.317) with three doubles, two home runs, three walks, and six Ks in 66 PAs, taking him from an impressive .281/.354/.393 down to a .235/.303/.362 line on the year.
Martinez said his difficult task when he is talking with his catcher is convincing the 24-year-old, switch-hitting backstop to stick with the things he’s been doing at the plate even if the results aren’t there right now.
“His chase rate is still under 30%, which is really good,” Martinez said. [ed. note - “It is now actually at 32.3%, according to Baseball Savant.”] “Now we got to get him to think about looking for the ball up. He’s a much better hitter when the ball is up [in the zone]. All the balls low tend to be on the ground, we’re trying to get him to elevate the balls a little bit. So he’s got to start looking up. That’s the next step. When the ball’s up, he hits the ball really hard. So we got to get him to consistently look for the ball up, stop chasing the balls down, and the other thing is the art of hitting with guys on base. Understanding what he needs to do, understanding what the pitcher is trying to do, sometimes maybe you got to work better counts to get the pitch you want to do. But don’t go up there right away, I know you want to be aggressive, but don’t go up there right away and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to swing at the first pitch and try to drive in the run.’ No, hey, be patient, wait for a good pitch, and try to get your best swing off when you get that pitch. And that’s something that we got to work on, not just with him but with all our young guys. Because they get up there and want to be overly aggressive with guys on base, and sometimes that first pitch ain’t always the best one, could be the second one. But just be ready to hit, understand who you are, and what you hit hard, and get that good pitch to hit.
“But I think his at-bats have been good. I’ve said this before, I watch his swings, and he’s lining out quite a bit and had nothing to to show for it.”
But all you can do is get the pitch you want, barrel it up, and see where it falls, which, if you are doing everything right, they eventually will ... should.
“It’s hard to tell a kid, ‘Don’t change anything,’’ Martinez said, “when they’re not getting any hits, because the pressure builds up, they all want the ball to drop every time they swing, and it doesn’t necessarily happen like that.”
It’s also a matter of swinging at the right pitches in the zone, and knowing which ones are right for you as a hitter, which is something he and his staff have stressed with all the Nats’ hitters, Ruiz included.
“We’re trying to get him now to understand what he does really well, and that’s getting the ball up in the zone,” the manager said.
As for Abrams? He was 2 for 18 (.111/.111/.222) with two doubles and eight Ks in his previous five games and 18 PAs before a day off on Sunday afternoon. Martinez said he’s liked what he has seen from his shortstop overall so far in 2023.
“He’s playing really well, he really is, and he’s another one when he gets started early his contact rate has been pretty good. He’s starting to hit the ball hard, he’s starting to drive the ball, but we got to get him to swing at strikes. But man, he’s done really well, defense has been really good. He works diligently, he takes ground balls every day with [Infield and Third Base Coach Gary DiSarcina] and [Run Prevention Coordinator] Ricky [Gutierrez], and the good thing is he wants to get better. And that’s awesome. But these guys have done really well. From where we were last year to where we are now, these guys are competing every day, and it’s actually fun to watch them, it really is. I mean, they bring the energy every day. The dugout throughout the games, if we had a mic in there, it’s pretty funny.”
Riley Adams Makes His Case:
With one more hit on Sunday, Riley Adams, who had a big 4 for 4 game in which he fell a triple short of the cycle, could have matched his season total going into the series finale with the Tigers in Nationals Park. Adams, 26, was 5 for 26 (.192/.250/.346) with a double, one home run, a pair of walks and 10 strikeouts in the seven games and 29 PAs which he managed to get backing up “Everyday” Keibert Ruiz behind the plate for Washington.
Adams hit a first-pitch changeups from lefty Joey Wentz 381 feet to left-center field for his second home run of 2023, singled to center the next time up, then doubled on line drives to left field in his third and four at-bats.
“I was getting back into where I feel comfortable and not expanding the zone,” Adams told MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato in a post game scrum, “getting pitches in the zone and being aggressive.
“It’s been a goal of mine to try to be a little more aggressive and swing at strikes, and I think I was able to accomplish that today. So that was the best part.”
“When [he’s] aggressive and he swings at strikes, he can hit,’ Davey Martinez said after the catcher’s big game. “He’s got a lot of power, we know that. But it’s getting him to swing before he gets to two strikes. That one’s a big key, that’s something that we always talk to him about — ‘Hey, just let it go. Get a ball in the zone and let it go and see what happens.’
“Today was a perfect example of what he can do when he does that.”
While Adams has played in just eight of the club’s 47 games so far his manager talked this week about getting the backup more action and managing the 23-year-old Ruiz carefully.
“We definitely got to keep [Ruiz’s] workload in mind,” Martinez acknowledged.
“He understands — here’s a guy that wants to catch every day. He never wants off.
“He doesn’t like when he takes days off, but we got to be smart and let him understand, ‘You need your days. It’s hard to catch 162 games.’”