Defensive gem highlights Abrams' daily work in the field

CJ Abrams’ eyes lit up as he prepared to answer a question about his favorite play from Friday night’s game.

“Favorite was the infield in, play at home,” he said with a wide smile. “For sure.”

Hard to argue with his thinking on that one.

With the Nationals trailing 3-1 in the top of the fourth, the Blue Jays’ Ernie Clement tripled to right-center. Unable to concede any more runs at that point, Davey Martinez had the infield play in against George Springer, hoping Patrick Corbin might somehow get the perennial All-Star to hit the ball sharply on the ground to someone.

That someone was Abrams, who had only a split-second to react to Springer’s 107.1 mph scorcher to his left. He made the play, spun around and then fired a strike to Riley Adams, who tagged Clement at the plate for a huge out.

Abrams was obviously pleased he made the play, but he was especially proud of the fact he made the play after practicing that very move countless times with infield coach Ricky Gutierrez.

“Me and Ricky have been working on the spin,” Abrams said. “And I spun around, not even thinking about it. The work’s paying off.”

For all he’s done at the plate to elevate his game toward star-level, Abrams also has turned himself into a surehanded shortstop over the last year. The scared kid who committed three errors on Opening Day 2023 is long gone, replaced by a confident defensive player who credits the daily pregame work he does with Gutierrez for helping him realize his full potential.

“He’s athletic, right?” manager Davey Martinez said. “The main thing with him is, when he gets ready to field the ball, his first step has been amazing. He’s getting to the ball quick, he’s setting his feet and he’s making good throws. He’s been outstanding. But that comes with his routine.”

Daily routines are important in every aspect of baseball – or any sport, for that matter – but they seem to carry extra importance when it comes to defense. If the notion that practice makes perfect is true, there’s no better way to ensure that than to field dozens of ground balls every single day, committing them to memory and then allowing the body to naturally react when the same situation arises during a game.

“We didn’t hit today on the field, on purpose,” Martinez said of Friday’s pregame plan for the entire team. “I didn’t want them hitting. But we always take ground balls. To me, we’ve got to get them out there. I always thought to myself: When I played, we took infield every day, no matter what. So I want these guys to just get loose. If we don’t hit on the field every day, we take ground balls. Do something to get ready to go. And it’s definitely helped him.”

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