WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Andrew Stevenson has had a base hit in his last four Nationals spring training games. It comes at a good time for the former LSU star, who is now in play for the fourth outfield spot again come opening day with the injury to Michael A. Taylor.
Stevenson has now had a base hit in five of his last seven appearances. His double at the end of Saturday’s game against the Cardinals wrapped around to a single and run scored to begin Sunday’s game against the Mets.
“He could do those things,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “He understands the game, plays the game well. I remember I gave him a couple hit-and-runs last year and he put the ball in play. That was kind of nice and I feel comfortable putting him anywhere in the outfield. He definitely can help us.”
Stevenson said his groove at the plate actually dates back to the end of the 2018 season. He hit .233 in 43 at-bats last season.
“At the end of last year I was kind of liking how I was swinging the bat,” Stevenson said. “So, this offseason I was trying to keep it similar to what I was doing towards the end of the season last year. And every year trying to get a little better. Just trying to sit back and wait on the right pitch, biggest thing.”
But 43 at-bats is not that much to build off of. Stevenson, like any player, feels like he can hit better with four or five at-bats each game. Playing every day in spring training allows him to experiment at the plate.
“Day in and day out I feel like each game to kind of learn something different,” Stevenson said. “In spring you’re still trying to get your timing back. So, once you get game speed it’s OK got to back the ball up a little bit or I got to sit on certain pitches every now and then so it’s just getting back into the baseball thinking.”
Martinez said he appreciated Stevenson’s work because it is always more difficult to get going at the plate when you are only getting a shot with just one pinch-hit at-bat per game.
“Pinch-hitting to me is one of the toughest jobs in baseball,” Martinez said. “He got to be really good at it. He continues to swing the bat especially against right-handed pitching, swings the bat well. He’s a good player. I like Andrew. He knows his role. He prepares himself really well. If it happens that we start with him he understands he’s going to get to pinch-hit and here and there (and) get a spot start.”
With Taylor or Stevenson in that fourth outfielder role, the Nats bring speed to that spot. Stevenson said he agrees with Martinez’s mindset this spring on running more, stealing bases, and going first to third.
“Definitely. Davey is big on being aggressive on the base paths,” Stevenson said. “Be smart but he’s rather you err towards the more aggressive side. Every time I get on I’m trying to advance to the next base and put pressure on the defense.”