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When will baseball return? Nats' manager Davey Martinez is optimistic

When will baseball return? Nats' manager Davey Martinez is optimistic

Davey Martinez starts his day with a 40-minute Peloton ride before heading out to the 350 acres of his farm in Tennessee.

The residence was meant for winter use, when baseball is over, and Martinez can work the land, hunt and generally check out after the season.

He’s there now. Martinez needs to do work all across the property -- tree cutting, fence fixing and lawn cropping -- and has fresh company. Two puppies, Champ and Mya, are now part of his camp family. He’s happy to be on the property as opposed to shut into a townhouse. However, there’s one place he would rather be.

“I would love my backyard to be Nats ballpark,” Martinez said Friday.

He, like Commissioner Rob Manfred and his boss, Mike Rizzo, is optimistic baseball will return in 2020. Martinez, like those other two, surprised no one when making that statement. Major League Baseball has been his life since 1983. He’s the manager of the defending World Series champions. Spring training started, then slammed to a halt because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Of course he wants baseball back.

“First and foremost for me, when you start thinking about scenarios, I don’t want to speculate on what’s going to transpire,” Martinez said. “But what I do try to do every day is tell myself that we will have baseball, baseball’s going to come back.”

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Martinez is working through prospective spring training scenarios. Two weeks of ramp up generates one outline, three weeks another, four weeks still one more. There’s no date -- yet -- to work back from. He doesn’t know which pitchers have been able to do what. Martinez joked Max Scherzer will probably be ready to throw seven or eight innings as soon as spring training resumes. Players have bought mounds to install in their yards, purchased stationary bikes like him, generally hunted any solution to stay in shape.

“Other than that, I haven’t really thought about where spring training would be because right now everything is just speculation,” Martinez said.

Among the speculation is the idea spring training would resume in the teams' home ballpark. That would reduce the Nationals’ capacity from 14 bullpen mounds, plus six other fields, to two mounds. They would have one full diamond. No minor-leaguers would be around to fill out rosters. It’s a logistical problem, like everything else.

“We talk about isolation and more than 10 people gathering in one place, with only one field we may have to separate and make groups,” Martinez said. “Whether starting pitchers come in the morning, bullpen guys come another time, then regular players come sometime in the afternoon. With one field it’s going to be hard to do. If we have to play scrimmage games, maybe using both dugouts, send guys in the stands. These are all things that are going to have to come into play.”

There’s nothing definitive. Martinez quickly and repeatedly pointed that out during his conference call. But, he remains hopeful, now applying his “win the day” philosophy to avoiding too much speculation. He’s on the farm with the puppies, burning calories and grinding away. His life revolves around contingencies. He hopes it is again centered by baseball soon.

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Juan Soto activated, but not in the Nationals' lineup vs. Mets

Juan Soto activated, but not in the Nationals' lineup vs. Mets

Juan Soto is not in the lineup. Yet.

He was reinstated from the COVID injured list to the active roster Tuesday. That’s a step. But, Soto is not in the Tuesday night lineup against the New York Mets and left-hander Steven Matz.

“He’s getting there,” Davey Martinez said. “I just want to make sure that we keep him healthy. We got him back and want to keep him healthy. He’s going to hit [Tuesday], he’s going to take some more ground balls in the field. Run a little bit more today. We’ll see where he’s at.

“I talked to him [Monday] night and he really felt like he could probably use another day or two. Said his legs felt a little heavy. His arm was a little sore. He tried to ramp it up -- we gave him the last four days, he’s probably got about 20 at-bats. In that respect he doesn’t feel that bad. But I want to make sure, like I said, we keep him healthy. We just got him back. He missed a lot of time. So we just want to make sure when he’s here now, he’s here to help us every day.”

RELATED: STEPHEN STRASBURG THROWS BULLPEN SESSION, NEARS RETURN

Martinez had to remind Soto the designated hitter is now an option in the National League. Which means the Nationals could start him in that spot or use it to give him a break.

Andrew Stevenson was optioned to the alternate training site to make room for Soto on the roster. Josh Harrison is playing left field in Soto’s place Tuesday.

Reliever Wander Suero was also activated Tuesday and is available if need be.

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Davey Martinez wishes Nationals just kept playing after Marlins outbreak

Davey Martinez wishes Nationals just kept playing after Marlins outbreak

WASHINGTON -- They played five innings -- sort of -- Saturday. Then six more -- sort of -- Sunday.

What the Nationals didn’t do was play the Miami Marlins for three games after appearing to wake up in back-to-back wins against Toronto last week. The weekend series against Miami was postponed while Major League Baseball’s scheduling complications persisted amid playing baseball in a pandemic.

The Nationals took Friday off, played two simulated games over the weekend, then took Monday off (though coming to the park was a voluntary option). Just seven games into the season, they were again stalled out, dealing with the replication of an All-Star break seven days after getting started. The short ramp up to the season stole chances to improve timing and get up to game speed. The break pushed both back, too.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, we much rather would have been playing,” Davey Martinez said Sunday. “The bats started coming around. The last two games [we] started playing fairly well. We got this little lull, but we’ve done everything we possibly can to get ready.

“Trying to keep these guys going. Keep their at-bats going. It’s tough not having that game speed, that actual adrenaline playing other teams. But, the boys are doing good.”

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Reliever Tanner Rainey needed the break after five appearances in seven games. And, Juan Soto, expected back Tuesday night, needed the time to do every baseball activity possible. Saturday, he hit all day, then ran the bases. Sunday, he stayed in left field for all six simulated innings. He was twice restricted to his apartment for quarantine in July. He’s behind. His absence was glaring. So now Soto is trying to hustle back.

When everyone returns to rain-soaked Nationals Park on Tuesday, they will see a longtime division rival, the New York Mets, in what has become a typical state. The Mets were the story across baseball Monday when outfielder and designated hitter Yoenis Céspedes decided to stop participating in the season because of COVID-19 concerns, but did not initially tell the Mets. He just decided not to show up. Or so the Mets said.

The Mets don’t even have this straight.

“There’s two sides of the story,” outfielder Brandon Nimmo told reporters. “We have the side where [the Mets] were let known before the game [Sunday] and we’ve also heard the side where they weren’t let known until the eighth inning, so I honestly don’t know which one to believe and I’m not going to try to figure that one out, but as far as us, we knew that people could walk whenever they wanted.”

Recall the Mets’ situation in late-May of 2019: The Nationals arrived at Citi Field for a four-game series. The Mets held a press conference before the series began to explain that Céspedes had suffered a “violent” fall from a horse on his ranch (the story evolved into an exchange with a wild boar which led to  Céspedes’ ankle fracture). General manager Brodie Van Wagenan also used the press conference to give then-manager Mickey Callaway a vote of confidence. The Mets were a mess -- until they swept the four games from the Nationals in a new stunning way, day after day. Then, it was Martinez who needed the public reassurance from his general manager.

The eventual ending was better for the Nationals.

Tuesday night starts just a two-game series. Patrick Corbin pitches for the Nationals. Steven Matz pitches for the Mets. Washington is trying to get its act together. The Mets are...well, the Mets. Sounds familiar.

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