Nationals manager Matt Williams today offered some intriguing insight about how he puts together a lineup and how he decides who goes into pitch in the late innings.
He said a lot of lineup decisions can be made by how the team is playing, especially when they are struggling. If they were on a winning streak, for instance, players like Ian Desmond or Jayson Werth might have already taken a day off or more.
"It's communication with those guys and talking with them and saying, 'Hey, I am looking to give you a day off here, so keep me updated as to how you feel.' And to a man, everyone has said 'I'm fine. I want to be out there. We need to get going. We need to play better. I can help us,' " Williams said.
"So you watch with that in mind, but also believe in your guys, believe in the players and believe what they are telling you, (how) they feel. That's never easy. But that is part of the job. Part of the job is trying manage all of that, whether it's the bullpen, whether it's our regulars, getting them days.
"Making sure that Wilson (Ramos) gets enough rest. Monitoring Adam (LaRoche) and his leg. Desi and his playing time and Jayson and his playing time, injuries - all of that comes into play."
Williams has stressed throughout the rough patches the team has gone through that they never stop working to get better or to have quality at-bats.
He said one really good example of that is to watch the preparation by guys that maybe don't play every day, but could pinch-hit at a moment's notice.
"I left the clubhouse to come in here and Kevin Frandsen got his nose buried in video tape," Williams said. "That is what it takes. Knowing who he could potentially face tonight, what that guy throws and what he may be able to do against him.
"So it takes work. It takes a dedication to the craft of pinch-hitting. It is not easy to sit over there for eight innings or so and all of sudden you are called upon in a crucial situation to get a base hit and you are expected to. That is not easy."
Williams recalls being an everyday player and appreciating how difficult a job a pinch-hitter has when he steps into the box in the late innings with the game on the line.
"Some guys do it really well," Williams said. "I couldn't do it. I didn't know how. I was too aggressive. Sometimes there is a philosophy that says well you need to hit the first one because that is best one you're going to get to hit, but you need to be patient enough to get your pitch.
"It is a tough spot. Our guys have done a really nice job at it because they prepare."
* The Nationals signed right-hander Brett Brach to a minor league contract and assigned him to high Single-A Potomac. Brach started Thursday night. Brach pitched on May 25 for the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League, going five innings and notching the victory against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
The Cleveland Indians released him after he went 0-2 with a 8.10 ERA for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers. In those three games, two of them starts, the Monmouth product Brach pitched only 6 2/3 innings, but he did have 15 career wins for Double-A Akron over a few seasons.