Davey Martinez talked late this past season about the pride he took in the fact that his club used just eight starters total in 2023, with the pitchers and coaching staff working together to keep them healthy and posting up each time their turns in the rotation came around.
“I’ve had so many people ask me already, ‘Man, how did you manage going through a year with only [eight] starters?’” Martinez told reporters. “And I just laugh.”
“I don’t want to give away anything,” he explained. “But I said part of it is the players buying in to what they need to do in-between starts. Maintaining their strength, their mechanics.
“[Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey working with them every day on just keeping their mechanics as clean as possible. Strength coaches and all that stuff, and obviously we went to that six-man rotation, which definitely helped, and which in the future is probably something we’re really going to look at.
“But with all that said, I’m proud of these guys. [We were] monitoring everything they did every day, and making sure they got in there.
“There were some days where we had to force them to do the work, but they did it, and it worked out well for all these guys.”
While they got the players to buy in, gave them rest when needed, and guided them through the season, especially the young starters, the club’s GM, Mike Rizzo (also President of Baseball Ops the nation’s capital), said in 2024, the reins are going to come off for some of the arms in the majors who’ve got some experience at the big league level.
“I think we’ll be careful,” Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings in December.
“We’re always careful. But we’re going to take the reins off them a little bit this year. We were careful with them last year, we really handled all of them with kid gloves.”
Veterans Patrick Corbin and Trevor Williams (who returned to starting after a couple years as a swing man), ate up their share of innings, Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, and Jake Irvin got through their own seasons, and three others pitchers chipped in (Joan Adon, 10; Chad Kuhl, 5; and Jackson Rutledge, 4 starts), but Corbin and Williams are entering the final years of their respective contracts in D.C., so it’s more about building up the younger starters now to try to get them ready for future years when the club expects to return to competitive play.
“I think this year we’re going to let the reins loose a little bit on those guys,” Rizzo said.
“We’ve got some good depth in the minor leagues — which we really haven’t had that much in the past, and I think that learning on the job in the big leagues is not easy. I think you saw some progress with those pitchers last year, and hopefully all those guys take another step in their progression and we can backfill with some of our own prospects from the minors to the big leagues.”
One obvious step their manager wants to see is for the starters to go deeper into games in 2024, with the reins loosened to some extent, or off, the skipper is hoping to get more and mores innings out of his pitchers in the future.
“Hey, look, I could go back to 2019 and the pitching staff that we had,” Martinez said when he too spoke at the Winter Meetings. “Those guys — eight innings and we won because of our pitching staff. They kept us in ballgames.
“I always say the same thing to our young guys: If you can give us 18 to 20 outs as a starter, we’re going to do big things.
“I still believe that. I know the game’s changed a little bit, but our starting pitchers need to give us some innings.”