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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats & D-backs smoked out; Victor Robles out for a rehab assignment; Random Anecdote time

Notes and quotes on the Nationals for Thursday/Friday May 7th/8th 2023...

Aired Out?:

Davey Martinez addressed concerns with the air quality index in D.C. going into the second game of the Nationals’ three-game series with the Diamondbacks, with the smoke from the wildfires in Canada blanketing the nation’s capital (and most of the northeast United States for the past few days). But while other games in New York and Philadelphia were postponed by Major League Baseball on Wednesday, the Nationals played as they had the night before.

GM Mike Rizzo told The Sports Junkies on Audacy’s 106.7 the FAN in D.C. early Wednesday morning the air in Washington had been a factor in the series opener on Tuesday night.

“There was like an — almost like a cloud of smoke over the ballpark, it was very hazy, almost looked like a haze in the air where you’re preparing for rain,” Rizzo explained.

Smoke From Canadian Wildfires Blows South Creating Hazy Conditions On Large Swath Of Eastern U.S. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

“You could definitely tell, and you could definitely see it. It’s something. It’s really crazy.”

There had not, however, been any health issues as far as he’d heard at that point.

“I didn’t get any breathing ailments or anything like that, but we did notice it, we did notice the air was definitely heavier and different.”

“The air is a little bit weirder than normal,” manager Davey Martinez said before Wednesday night’s game.

Before the planned series finale with Arizona, he said there were concerns about the air in D.C. getting worse over the previous 24 hours heading into the 1:05 PM start time yesterday.

“It’s pretty bad out there,” Martinez said of the air quality two hours before first pitch, as he and his club waited for a decision from MLB.

With government officials recommending people stay in doors, the game getting played did seem unlikely.

“I saw the warning come out this morning,” Martinez told reporters, “so like I said, we’ll see what MLB figures out here, and hopefully we’re going to do what’s best for the players, and the fans, and everybody here.”

Smoke From Canadian Wildfires Blows South Creating Hazy Conditions On Large Swath Of Eastern U.S. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

At least one player seemed to be feeling the effects of the smoke-filled air in the past few days.

“I know that Lane [Thomas] came in today and said that even after last night he’s been coughing,” Martinez shared.

“So that’s a bit of a concern. I said, ‘Hey, just go see the trainers.’ But hopefully everything will be done right, and just try to get through the day.”

Shortly after the sixth-year skipper spoke, the ballclub announced the poor air quality in D.C. forced a postponement.

According the club, they’re keeping their pitching lined up as it was. Josiah Gray is set to go in tonight’s series opener in Atlanta, with MacKenzie Gore and Trevor Williams to follow over the weekend.

Good News!!:

After saying what he did above, about the air quality in Nationals Park, Davey Martinez said he did have some good news.

“Victor Robles is going out for a rehab assignment,” he said.

“That will be good. We’ll get him going. He’s going to go to Rochester and begin a rehab. So hopefully everything goes well and we get him back here soon.”

Robles, 26, was off to a good start this season, before he landed on the IL with a back injury on May 8th, with a .292/.388/.360 line, four doubles, eight stolen bases, 10 walks, and 14 Ks in 107 plate appearances to start his seventh big league campaign. It ended up being more of an issue than it initially seemed, and the outfielder has been out of action now for over a month.

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

“It’s been really tough for him,” Martinez acknowledged.

“He’s been frustrated, because he was hitting the ball really well, and playing well, but I told him, I said, ‘Hey, we got to make sure we take care of this so it doesn’t linger, so hopefully he’s through the rehab portion of it, now he gets a chance to go out there and play and we get him back on the field. It’s always tough for a player no matter how they’re doing, because they always want to be on the field and playing, and for him, because he’s got so much energy, it was really, really bugging him that he can’t be out there with his teammates playing.”

What boxes does Robles need to check before he’s called up from Triple-A? Martinez said it was about getting up to game speed now.

“He’s got to go out there and start playing, get some at-bats,” the manager said.

“I want to see him do everything that he normally does. If he gets an opportunity to steal bases, take extra bases, play good defense, all that stuff. But it’s going to be — I think the first day I scheduled him to play just four innings, and then we’ll build him up from there.”

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

As they have over the last few weeks, the Nationals are going to take their time and make sure Robles is ready before he returns.

“Yeah, I don’t expect him to be here in 2-3 days,” Martinez said.

“I want him to play, I want him to really test himself and then when we deem that he’s ready we’ll get him back up here.”


Though the Nationals didn’t release an official lineup before yesterday’s game ended up being postponed, Davey Martinez said he’d planned to play Ildemaro Vargas in right and Lane Thomas in center as the club tried to avoid getting swept by the D-backs.

It would have been the second career game in right field in the majors for Vargas, and his first start in right.

Over the 31-year-old’s seven-year big league career, he’s played all four infield positions, and left field, and he’s pitched ... and he’s got aspirations behind the dish as well. Wait, what? He what?

“I kid you not,” Martinez said, “the other day I was looking, and I was watching TV because I was watching the bullpen, and he was working on catching. So I said, ‘What are you doing?’

MLB: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

“And he said, ‘You never know!’ And I said, ‘Oh, I know. I know you’re not going to be back there.’

“But hey, it was funny. And he actually was framing and everything, and I was like, ‘What in the world is going on here.’”

To be clear, Martinez found this all really funny. And he likes Vargas. Well, not likes...

“I love that guy. I really do,” Martinez told reporters. “He’s our [Gerardo] Parra right now. He really is. He brings a lot of energy to our clubhouse, and like I said, he just loves playing the game.

“He loves the game. If you [see] him, just ask him. He’ll tell you, he says, ‘I love my life.’”