PHILADELPHIA – A suspicion surrounding the Nationals was all but confirmed this afternoon by manager Davey Martinez.
Before the Nats took the field at Citizens Bank Park for the third game of this four-game set against the Phillies, Martinez met with the media in his office and said Luis García has been getting reps at second base in anticipation of C.J. Abrams’ arrival to the major league roster in the coming weeks. When Abrams does join the Nationals, it seems the plan is for the current shortstop to slide over to second base, fortifying the middle of the infield.
“He's already been over there taking ground balls just in case we do bring Abrams up here,” Martinez said of García. “So he's been taking ground balls over there. And all of our infielders have actually been taking ground balls throughout the infield now, so it's kind of nice. I want them to move around and just get used to taking ground balls in different positions.”
García hasn’t played second base in the majors this season yet, but he played there in 96 games over his first two years in the bigs. In 55 games at short this season, the 22-year-old has 11 errors. He committed eight errors in 59 games at second last year and five in 37 games in 2020.
Abrams, one of the top prospects the Nats acquired in Tuesday’s trade with the Padres for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, is highly touted for his defense. The 6-foot-2, 189-pounder was cited by Baseball America as the “best defensive infielder” (2021-22) and “best athlete” (2020-22) in San Diego’s minor league system. In 32 games at shortstop with the Padres this season, the 21-year-old only committed two errors.
“Because we're gonna have a lot. We're gonna have a lot,” Martinez said when asked what prompted García’s work at second. “Hopefully, we’ll have some guys come up here. (Ildemaro) Vargas being able to do everything with C.J. coming up here one of these days. He's gonna play some short and we want Luis to play some second. César (Hernández) has played everywhere in the past, so I told him just get used to playing all three infield positions. So I want to keep these guys going and keep them flexible.”
Flexibility and versatility seem to be important for the Nationals as they construct their roster over the coming months and perhaps years.
“Yeah, I love that,” Martinez said. “I love the guys that can play multiple positions. We've done it in the past. I mean, I've been on teams, coaching, where we had guys (who have) been able to play multiple positions. And it makes it nice. It makes it easier for decision making during the games that we can actually put somebody in another spot without having to take him out of the game.”
García also played eight games at shortstop last season and three in 2020. Is there any concern about the back and forth between the two positions for him?
“I don't think so because he's done it so much and I think he feels comfortable over at second base,” Martinez said. “When we shift down, he goes over, when Vargas is in there, he goes over to second base and he feels comfortable doing that.”
The Nats’ current young shortstop is actually getting the day off today against Phillies left-hander Ranger Suárez, with Martinez also saying they want García to have a true off-day. After all the hard work he’s put in at short, they want him to get off his feet a bit.
But when García returns to the lineup, will the Nats give him second base reps in an actual game?
“We'll see as we get closer (to Abrams’ debut),” Martinez said. “Right now, he's playing a lot better at shortstop. He made some nice plays yesterday. Turned a real nice double play yesterday, so we want to keep him over there right now.”