Manager Dusty Baker remembers top prospect Victor Robles from the outfielder’s play in spring training in February and March, and has seen the 20-year-old progress to the point where he joined the Nationals today.
“He didn’t play a whole bunch, but he wasn’t intimidated at all,” Baker said. “He was happy to be there. He’s actually one of the leaders of the young Latin corps that we have here. You can tell how they kind of gravitate towards him. I heard he is a heck of a player. I also heard there’s some fundamental things that he needs to learn like some baserunning, throwing to the right base, different things. That’s what we’re here to teach him. Hopefully, he’s a quick learner, which I heard he is. Tremendous talent.”
Robles had his contract selected this afternoon because Brian Goodwin has taken a step back in his rehab from injury.
“It doesn’t appear that Goodie is going to be ready because he had a set back on his groin,” Baker said. “That’s not very good news for him or us. It’s looking tough because we don’t have much time left. We don’t know yet.”
Don’t expect to see Baker just throw Robles into the lineup, however. Baker wants Robles to enjoy this experience, but also work on his fundamentals.
“I don’t know how I’m going to use him,” Baker said. “First you got to kind of earn your stripes. You’re here to learn more than you’re here to play. We’re not in a tryout. It’s a reward when you get called up. As a September callup, I’ll call upon when I need you. Whether it’s pinch-run, pinch-hit, I’ll try to get them a start or two. First, I got to try to get Raudy Read in there first.”
Needless to say, Robles was thrilled to hear he was coming to the Nationals. Robles said it was the assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel Doug Harris who relayed the good news to him.
“Doug Harris was the one that told me,” Robles said via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “I couldn’t get any words out of my mouth. It was hard to talk at all.”
Robles said his parents were equally thrilled with the news.
“It was the same reaction that I had when I was told,” Robles said. “You could tell they couldn’t get the words out of their mouths. Very excited and I could sense my dad just jumped in the air.”
Baker knows Robles comes with significant credentials and has been highly sought after by other organizations. But Robles will have to learn the ropes here; nothing will just be handed to him.
“I know he’s one of the top prospects here,” Baker said. “He might’ve been the man where he came from, but you’re like a little freshman. You got to earn your stripes to get back to the man situation. We’ll use him in a situation where I think he can handle. I try to use them all a situation where they might have best chance to succeed and help us win, not put him in a situation to embarrass the kid.”
Robles was humbled to join the Nats and agrees with his skipper that he is here to be a sponge.
“This is definitely what I worked for and I definitely was surprised to get called up so young at 20 years old,” Robles said. “But I think I have the ability to help the team out and hopefully I’ll help them out anyway I can with my ability.
“I have heard the trade talks. I completely understand that this is a business. Those things happen. All I can do is control what I do on the field, my ability, and just keep playing baseball, go about it that way.”
Robles would have had a busy schedule regardless of his callup to the Nats, but he gladly accepts the challenge.
“The original plan was for me to head to instructional league and prepare for ... the Arizona Fall League,” Robles said. “I was on my way to do that. Yesterday morning, I got the phone call. I am very blessed about the opportunity. It was great feeling to be known that I was getting called up to the big leagues.”
Baker had no pregame update on the progress on Jayson Werth, who is still dealing with a sore shoulder from getting hit by a pitch in a rehab game last week. Baker also said he wants Wilmer Difo as infield insurance moreso than outfield.
The possibility of Difo playing outfield in the postseason is more likely in an “emergency situation,” Baker said, and the playoffs is “no time for experiment.”