Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats’ offense early; Tanner Rainey velo ?s + more…


Notes and quotes from the first four games of the 2024 campaign…

OFFENSE EARLY:

Davey Martinez said after the third loss in the first four games this season Monday afternoon he thought his club was doing well enough in spite of the final results thus far in 2024.

“We’re not playing horrible,” the seventh-year manager told reporters after Monday’s 8-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2024 home opener.

“Little things here and there. We’ll get those guys back on Wednesday, and we’ll try to go 1-0 on Wednesday.”

He did say the offense needed to pick it up, especially against opposing starters early in games.

Nationals’ hitters put up just four hits, two walks, and one run in five innings against Pirates’ starter Marco Gonzalez on Monday.

“The first five innings I think Gonzalez only had like 62 pitches or something like that,” Martinez said.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals
Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

“We’ve got to jump on their starters. We talk about it every day. We’ve got to try to knock those starters out. We’ve got to get deeper in counts.

“Once again, we chased a lot of balls in, off the plate,” he said in diagnosing the offensive struggles against the Bucs’ starter.

“The whole object today was trying to push him out. He doesn’t throw very many strikes in there, so try to get him out over the plate, but we chased a lot of balls in.

“We got to understand what we want to do and how we want to attack these guys.

“We score first we put a lot of pressure on the other team, so we got to start doing that.”

WAITING ON RAINEY’S VELO?:

Tanner Rainey, who returned from Tommy John surgery to make one big league appearance late in the 2023 campaign, sat around 92.2 MPH with his fastball (down from an average of 96-97 MPH in previous seasons), which was an issue he’s said earlier this spring would work itself out as he got going this season.

Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez chalked Rainey’s velocity in his initial outing of the 2024 season up to the circumstances in his debut on Opening Day in Cincinnati.

“Opening Day jitters,” Martinez explained.

“He gets that out of the way, and we’ll see what happens on Saturday.”

Asked before Saturday’s game about his level of concern with Rainey’s progress, Martinez said the 31-year-old reliever is still building after a long rehab process.

Pittsburgh Pirates v. Washington Nationals
Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“He hasn’t pitched much in a year,” the skipper said. “He pitched one inning for us last year.

“So I’m going to ease him in to situations, and see how he does. His velo is still not where we think it should be, so we’ll see how that transpires. It’s only Day One. We’ll see how he does. I’m glad he’s back, I’m glad he’s pitching.

“We’re going to get him out there, but it’s probably going to be more of a low-leverage situation until he builds himself up.”

Rainey doesn’t have to be back up to 96-97 MPH he’s averaged in his career to be effective Martinez said.

“Even if he’s in the [93s] and [94s] that will definitely help a lot,” he explained.

Martinez also noted that the bullpen depth they have assembled this year is allowing them to bring Rainey along slowly as he build back up.

“It definitely helps, but you’re talking about [Dylan] Floro, who didn’t pitch as much because he was hurt in Spring Training. Matt Barnes, who we acquired late. You’ve got to be careful with those guys as well. So, you got those other three guys, and [Derek] Law who threw the ball really well. You got [Jordan] Weems, you got [Kyle] Finnegan, you got [Hunter] Harvey, and Robert [Garcia], who’s done really well as well. We’ll rely on those guys in situations where I deem they match up well, but those other guys, they’re veteran guys, they know how to pitch, and they’re going to be asked to pitch in some crucial situations.”


Rainey’s second appearance of the year was a rough one as well.

Taking the mound in the top of the ninth on Monday, Rainey gave up back-to-back one-out singles, threw a wild pitch, and gave up a two-run double which put the visiting Pirates up 8-3 in what ended up an 8-4 game in the visitors’ favor.

Rainey did, however, average 94.3 MPH with his fastball, which got up to 95.7, and he got four swinging strikes on the pitch (along with five on his slider), though his velo was still 2+ MPH off his career average.

“He threw the ball better today,” Martinez said. “His velo was up to 95, which was really nice. I think it’s just a matter of time with him. He hasn’t pitched in a long time. But we’ve got to use him. He’s part of that bullpen. I think he’s going to be better. He gets to two strikes and he loses the strike zone, and we always talk about just finishing within 3-4 pitches or less with him. The guy put a pretty good at-bat the last at-bat, but I thought he threw the ball — a couple of ground ball hits, but other than that I thought his slider was good, he threw the ball better.”

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Title: Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats’ offense early; Tanner Rainey velo ?s + more…
Author: Patrick Reddington

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