García gets first day off since call-up from Triple-A

Davey Martinez knew Luis García wasn’t going to play every day. Though the Nationals manager made it clear the 22-year-old would be his starting shortstop upon his promotion from Triple-A Rochester at the beginning of the month, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t get a day off at some point.

And that day is today, with García on the bench for the second game of this series against the Pirates, with Alcides Escobar getting the nod at shortstop for the first time in four weeks.

García had started all 25 of the Nationals’ games since his June 1 promotion, and he’s performed quite well at the plate, batting .337 with eight doubles, a triple, two homers, 11 RBIs and an .847 OPS across 101 plate appearances.

On the heels of a 3-for-4, two-double showing Monday night, it might sound illogical for García to get tonight’s game off. But Martinez had this planned for a while, a product of the Nats’ schedule, which includes Wednesday’s 1:05 p.m. series finale before the team’s off-day Thursday.

“So it gives him a few days (of rest), even though he’s available today if we need him,” the manager said. “He’s been playing well. He’s been playing a lot. And we’ve got to remember, he played every day at Triple-A as well before he got here. So I thought today would be a good day, and get Escobar some at-bats.”

Escobar has not played in a big league game since he strained his right hamstring trying to make a diving play at shortstop May 31 in New York. His placement on the 10-day injured list opened the door for García’s call-up, with Martinez making it known right away the prospect would continue to play every day even after the veteran was healthy again.

That has proven accurate to date. Though he was activated off the IL one week ago, Escobar did not see any action in the Nationals’ six games since, not even coming off the bench at any point along the way. Tonight, he’ll start at shortstop and bat seventh in a planned one-night-only appearance.

Though he’s not in the lineup, García is still getting a full day’s work. He participated in pregame fielding and hitting drills with his teammates. And he was scheduled to join Martinez for a late-afternoon session with a group of young Latino kids who are attending tonight’s game as part of the manager’s regular “Davey’s Dugout” program.

“It’s something I’ve done over the years to give back. And I like to bring a player with me, so the kids can see him and talk,” Martinez said. “I thought Luis would be the perfect guy, because they’re a little bit younger, so he’d be really good to communicate with the kids and just get him out of his everyday (routine) and get him to speak a little bit. He’s kind of shy, but I want him to get out there and start meeting some of these young kids.”

* A pair of injured Nationals pitchers are beginning rehab assignments with Rochester this week. Aníbal Sánchez is starting tonight for the Red Wings, scheduled for four innings and/or 60 pitches. Josh Rogers will then start Thursday’s game, his first rehab outing.

Sánchez was supposed to make the opening day rotation but landed on the IL right at the end of spring training with a cervical neck impingement that has sidelined him since. The 38-year-old right-hander has slowly progressed in recent weeks and finally was able to build his arm up at the club’s complex in West Palm Beach. Martinez said he’ll need to make several rehab starts before he could be activated, with a role in the big league rotation uncertain at the moment with Paolo Espino and Jackson Tetreault having assumed the fourth and fifth starter’s jobs.

Rogers, who actually replaced Sánchez in the opening day rotation, pitched in 16 games (three starts) before landing on the IL June 3 with a left shoulder impingement. The 27-year-old also recently began building his arm back up in West Palm Beach and is now ready to pitch in minor league games. The Nats will stretch him out to start, though it’s possible Rogers will rejoin the bullpen once he comes off the IL.

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