Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Sunday…
Double-Duty For Snyder:
Down at Triple-A Rochester, in 65 games, veteran catcher Brandon Snyder was 42 for 203, (.207/.319/.419) with seven doubles and 12 home runs, but he got called up, sort of, with a need in the Washington Nationals’ bullpen … for a bullpen catcher.
Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty tweeted before Sunday’s series finale in Milwaukee that bullpen catcher Brett Austin was leaving the club for a coaching gig:
Staff news for the Nationals, according to people with knowledge of the situation: Bullpen catcher Brett Austin has taken an asst. coaching job at N.C. State, his alma mater. To patch the hole, Brandon Snyder is up as a taxi squad C who will help in the pen.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) August 22, 2021
Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez confirmed the staff change before Sunday’s game, telling reporters what led to the move.
“[Snyder is] on our taxi squad, but he’s going to help us in the bullpen. We lost Brett Austin, who was our bullpen catcher, he took a job with N.C. State as a coach, so he left, he had to be there, so we brought Snyder up to kind of help us out, so we’ll see what happens.”
Things have been shaken up with Martinez’s coaching staff for while now, with a number of coaches caught up in the COVID outbreak with the club last month, and bench coach Tim Bogar has been away from the team after undergoing back surgery, so bullpen coach Henry Blanco has been the acting bench coach, while Double-A pitching coach Sam Narron is up with the big league club again (after filling in last month) and serving as the bullpen coach.
“It’s tough,” Martinez said of all the shuffling of coaches in the last two months, “… because you build these relationships — like Tim Bogar, he’s my guy, I mean, you know, he’s with me all the time and he had to have surgery on his back, and I talk to him every day, but you have these other guys that I’ve told you before, that these guys know a lot about the game and all aspects of the game, and Henry is one of those guys where I joke around with him, now he’s become the utility coach, so he can do it all, but it’s nice to have those guys around, and having Brandon Snyder who’s done a lot, who knows a lot of our young players, who’s caught a lot of them in the minor leagues, having him here to help out now is good.”
And how has the quiet, but affable, Blanco done as the bench coach?
“He’s been good. Real good,” Martinez said.
“As you know he brings a lot of energy, but he’s been good and we talk all throughout the game like I do with Bogie, he gives me his opinions, which I love, and we work things out, but he’s been great.”
Before Sunday’s game, the Nationals announced that they had returned from rehab and reinstated both Austin Voth (COVID-IL) and Kyle McGowin (strained right biceps).
Voth, 29, has been out since July 26th, but he returned to the majors after throwing three scoreless innings in relief at Triple-A Rochester.
Before landing on the IL, Voth had a 5.05 ERA and a .262/.339/.456 line against in 32 games and 41 IP, but after almost a month off, what are the Nationals expecting from him now?
“We’ll see,” Martinez said. “He threw the ball well his last outing, he threw two innings, 28 pitches, he threw the ball really well. Before that, he said he had trouble with his command. We’ll see how he feels. We’re going to put him out there, he said he’s ready to go today, if we need him he’s available, so we’ll see how it goes.”
“But he’s had a really good year for us,” the manager added. “He’s done a lot: long-relief, coming in in high-leverage situations, so I explained to him that the situation that we’re in he’s probably going to have to pitch the sixth, the seventh, the eighth inning, who knows, but just to be ready.”
Voth actually got in Sunday’s game in the eighth, giving up a single, double, and a walk that loaded the bases with no one out before a low line drive to third base started an unassisted double play, and a groundout got him out of the jam.
“We got to build him up,” Martinez said after the Nationals’ 7-3 loss. “He hasn’t pitched in a while, he pitched a few games down in the minor leagues, it’s not the same, as we all know, and we just got to build him up. It was good to get him back out there, he got out of a big jam, [Carter] Kieboom made a nice play, but he’ll be ready to go again on Tuesday.”
Every Day Andres:
With the injury issues and trades which depleted the Nationals’ bullpen over the last month-plus, Davey Martinez has been calling on 28-year-old righty Andres Machado on a regular basis, sending him out there 19 times since June 30th, in two separate stints in the majors over that stretch, with the right-hander putting up a 2.33 ERA, five walks, 18 strikeouts, and a .179/.267/.269 line line against in 19 1⁄3 IP thus far.
Martinez said on Sunday that Machado is the kind of pitcher who wants the ball every day.
Machado recorded two outs in the seventh on Saturday, and told his manager he wanted to go back out for the eighth, though Martinez thought better of it.
“Yesterday he wanted to go back out for another inning, and I had to tell him, “Hey, you did a great job, you know, we’re going to hand it off,’” Martinez said. “But he wants to pitch, he loves — when that phone rings, and we call his name out, and he comes in, as you can tell he loves to compete, so it’s nice to have guys like that around, and he’s done well, he’s another guy that’s been put in different situations, and has been handling himself really well.”
What has the fourth-year skipper learned after sending Machado out in a couple higher-leverage spots as he’s gained confidence in the reliever?
“He has no fear,” Martinez said, “it doesn’t matter who he faces or what situation he’s in, he’s going to go out there and compete and do everything he can to help us win games.”
Kie-BOOM, Not Bust:
Carter Kieboom went 1 for 4 with a walk in Saturday afternoon’s loss to the Brewers, with an RBI single off Milwaukee’s closer Josh Hader in the ninth for his only hit.
Before Sunday’s series finale, going back to July 29th, the Nationals’ third baseman was 21 for 72 (.292/.376/.444) with two doubles and three home runs in 21 games and 85 plate appearances, with 10 walks and 20 strikeouts in a solid stretch in the latest run in the majors for the 23-year-old, 2016 1st Round pick.
Martinez was asked on Sunday morning if the trade deadline moves, and the decision to go with some of the younger players in the organization down the stretch after kicking off what they’re calling a reboot, were factors for a seemingly more confident and a more comfortable Kieboom.
“Yeah, you know, what I’ve noticed this last time up, that he’s getting an opportunity to play every day, he has a plan every day, he has a routine every day,” Martinez said. “I mean, and that’s part of growing up, that’s part of knowing who you are and playing in the major leagues, but every day he’s working on something, he’s trying to get better, especially playing defense, and his hitting has definitely improved. He’s hitting the ball really hard, and all over the field. Yesterday you saw him take a Hader ball and hit it to right field for a base hit. He’s grown up quite a bit already since I’ve seen him the first time up here, and I think a lot of it — he’s got confidence that he feels like he belongs up here now, and that’s a good sign.”
In Sunday’s game, Kieboom went 1 for 4 again with a home run and two Ks, taking reliever Hoby Miller deep to left in the ninth for his 4th HR of the season, a half-inning after helping Austin Voth escape a bases-loaded, no-out jam when he caught a low liner to third base to start an unassisted double play, then fielded a grounder to third base and threw to first for out No. 3.
“He’s doing well you know,” Martinez said after the game. “I talked to him before that last at bat and told him, ‘Hey, be more aggressive, you’re starting to hit again with two strikes, get aggressive early.’ And he went out there and got a good pitch to hit and smoked it. And his defense is getting better, we talk a lot about — he’s another guy that’s really working hard on getting set up early, moving his feet, keeping his feet moving, and getting his hand up so he can make better throws, and he’s done that, so he’s getting better.”