Davey Martinez admitted this spring he might be trotting out different-looking lineups on a daily basis, based on matchups, lefty-righty splits and other assorted information. Whether the Nationals manager realized all along how different his Game 1 and Game 2 lineups would look is a valid question.
The lineup card Martinez submitted for this afternoon’s game against the Braves features eight of the same names that started on Opening Day, with only Corey Dickerson replacing Alex Call in left field. But only one of those eight players is actually batting in the same location: Joey Meneses, who again gets the No. 2 slot.
“We’re going to have to mix and match a little bit this year,” Martinez admitted during his pregame session with reporters. “The one thing I do like is having Joey in the 2-hole. Because if we do have someone that needs to get that last at-bat (in the ninth inning), I want to make sure he gets it.”
The most notable change from Thursday is at the top of the lineup. Luis García, who batted seventh in the opener, is leading off today, flip-flopping with Lane Thomas.
García did get several opportunities to lead off in spring training, and he also did it eight times last season. A notorious free-swinger who owns one of the lowest walk rates in the league, the 22-year-old doesn’t exactly profile as a typical leadoff man. Martinez, though, specifically liked him batting first today against Braves starter Spencer Strider.
Strider has one of the best fastballs in the league, and he threw it 67 percent of the time last season. García produced a .351 batting average and .595 slugging percentage off fastballs last year.
That’s why he’s leading off today, but Martinez wouldn’t rule out the possibility he does it against other right-handers.
“Today it was about the matchup more than anything,” the manager said. “I know Strider has a really good, electric fastball. We like Luis hitting fastballs against right-handers, so we put him up there. And then we’ll see. I hope he can do well up there and this is something we can do regularly with guys like that. We’ll see what happens.”
Though García is leading off, the Nationals don’t want him suddenly trying to become a different type of hitter. He’s not going to work the count, and they’re fine with that, so long as he swings at the right pitches.
“We want him to attack,” Martinez said. “Stay on the fastball, but get the ball in the zone. He’s really good when the ball’s in the zone. He really worked on (not) chasing this spring. That’s going to be (the coaching staff’s) whole message today: Make sure the ball’s in the zone.”
* The Nationals have signed veteran catcher Kevin Plawecki to a minor league deal and intend to assign him to Triple-A Rochester.
Plawecki, 32, was with the Pirates this spring, going 4-for-17 with two doubles. Once he was informed he wasn’t going to make the Opening Day roster, he opted out of his deal, making him a free agent.
A first-round pick of the Mets in 2012, Plawecki owns a .235/.313/.341 slash line, 22 homers and 137 RBIs in 447 career big league games with the Mets, Cleveland, Red Sox and Rangers. He hit .220/.286/.286 in 63 games last year split between Boston and Texas.
With Israel Pineda opening the season on the 10-day injured list with a fractured finger on his right hand, the Nationals needed catching help in the minors. Plawecki joins Francisco Arcia and Onix Vega in Rochester and would be a logical option to promote to D.C. if anything happens to Keibert Ruiz or Riley Adams.