A new era of Nationals baseball will get underway tonight on South Capitol Street. After the Juan Soto and Josh Bell reunion tours concluded in yesterday’s loss to the Padres, the first of the five prospects traded to Washington from San Diego will make his Nationals debut in the series opener against the Cubs.
Shortstop CJ Abrams was recalled from Triple-A Rochester this afternoon while Luis García landed on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to Aug. 13) with a left groin strain. Abrams is starting at shortstop and batting seventh tonight in the first of three against Chicago.
“It's a new team. It's a new start. It's a great opportunity and I'm excited to get going,” Abrams said in front of his new locker with his old Padres bags on the floor and his new No. 5 Nationals jersey hanging inside.
With left-hander MacKenzie Gore on the injured list with left elbow inflammation and the other three prospects still a couple of years away from the major leagues, Abrams will be the first prospect from the mega trade with the Padres to appear in a game for the Nats.
“It's amazing,” he said. “Like I said, it's a good opportunity. So do my thing out there and have fun playing.”
The 21-year-old is the Nationals’ No. 1 prospect, and the No. 11 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America. In eight games with Rochester, he hit .290 (9-for-31) with two doubles, two RBIs, two walks and four stolen bases.
“I mean, everybody cares about me, you know?” Abrams said of joining the Nationals organization. “I've been working with (minor league infield coordinator José Alguacil) a lot, working on defense, and then just playing. It's still the game plan, have fun with it.”
Alguacil joined Abrams in Washington to continue to help the young prospect get acclimated to his new team.
“It was just to get him a little bit, you know, bring somebody here with him just because he knows him, he was working with him down there just to get a little bit acclimated,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We have Gary DiSarcina, who's done a great job, he really does and has been doing it for many, many years. So I want Gary to build that relationship with CJ as well and start handling a lot of his workload.”
That workload is going to consist of being the Nationals’ everyday shortstop for the remainder of the season. The Nats have always wanted their top prospects playing every day, no matter which level. Since Abrams is here, he’s going to play.
“We want him to stay here. That's our goal,” Martinez said.
“Awesome. Quiet kid, but good kid. A lot bigger than I thought in person. But I told him, 'Hey, this is your new home. Be where your feet are, go out there and just play the game, have fun.' I told him two things that really annoy me is if you don't run to first base hard and you miss signs. So other than that, go play the game and enjoy it and if you have any questions for me, feel free to come to my office. I'm always around. But he seems like a very good kid. He's anxious to go out there and play, so just gonna go out and let him play. Eventually what I'd like to do is move him up in the lineup a little bit. But I just want him to get his feet wet. So I thought about just batting him seventh today and let's see what he does.”
That means García will slide over to second base once he returns from the injured list, something the team has already been preparing the young infielder for since the trade deadline. He’s only working on strengthening while rehabbing his groin, but once he’s deemed OK to take ground balls, he’ll do so at second.
“Yeah, I talked to him yesterday,” Martinez said of García. “I told him, I said, 'You will move to second base, and I want you to play second base.' So when we start getting him back on the field, he'll take his ground balls over at second.”
Abrams’ locker in the Nationals clubhouse is right next to García’s, which was done by design so the young infielders can grow together.
“We want these two guys to work together, yeah, and communicate,” Martinez said. “They're two of our youngest players, so we definitely want them to be together as much as possible and get to know each other.”
What should you know about Abrams’ style of play now?
“I play the game hard,” he said. “I like to play hard. Play at a fast pace. Get outs and score runs.”