García to be everyday shortstop with Escobar on IL

NEW YORK – The Nationals waited the last two months for Luis García to prove to them he was ready to be called back up to the big leagues. But sometimes other developments force the issue, and when Alcides Escobar injured his right hamstring during Tuesday night’s loss to the Mets, the organization knew it was time to promote their 22-year-old infielder.

García was officially recalled from Triple-A Rochester this morning, with Escobar placed on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain that’s not serious enough to sideline him long-term but was significant enough to sideline him for a little while.

“He said he was still sore. And the position he plays, it’s tough to play when your hamstring is bothering you,” manager Davey Martinez said prior to today’s series finale against the Mets. “We decided the best thing to do is just let it heal, let it get right. Hopefully it only takes 10 days, 12 days, but we’ll see where he’s at.”

The Nationals could’ve called up a short-term replacement for Escobar, such as utility infielder Lucius Fox. But García has long been considered a potential long-term part of the organization’s rebuilding plan, and his performance over the last two months at Triple-A – most notably a .314/.368/.531 offensive slash line – convinced the team’s decision makers the time was right to promote him.

“It made sense, because we have a shortstop on the (IL),” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We thought he was very close, and when Escobar went down it made it a fairly simple decision to make.”

The only thing holding up García to this point was his erratic play in the field. He’s still prone to errors – he has been charged with eight of them in 35 games at shortstop, plus two more in eight games at second base – but he has improved his footwork and his pre-pitch concentration to the point the organization believes he will be less of a defensive liability than in the past.

“The biggest thing for me is his footwork, and using his legs to throw the baseball,” manager Davey Martinez said. “Finding that good arm slot and using his legs; that’s something we have to stay on him about. Sometimes he plays the game a different way. He’s got all this energy. But he’s got to make sure he’s consistent with what he does. That’s something we’ve got to work with him on every day.”

García was all smiles when he arrived in the visitors’ clubhouse at Citi Field around 10:45 a.m., fresh off a five-hour drive from Rochester. This is the third season he’s reached the big leagues, but the 22-year-old feels better prepared for the challenge ahead this time around.

“You come in here just a little more confident, a little more relaxed,” García said, via interpreter Melissa Strozza. “I do think that will really help.”

García will have ample opportunity to show just how much he has improved. Martinez made it clear he’ll be the everyday shortstop as long as he’s here, even if that means benching Escobar once the veteran is healthy again.

“I want to watch him,” Martinez said. “I’ve seen him on video a lot. But now he’s up here again and we’ll see where he’s at. Hopefully everything goes great for him. We want him to be successful.”

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