Martinez on Bell's return and Parra's start

When the Nationals posted their lineup for this afternoon's game in Miami, two things jumped out: Josh Bell was back at first base after sitting out two games with a sore right side that required a precautionary MRI and Victor Robles was on the bench, with Gerardo Parra getting his first start in center field since 2019.

Bell has been one of the Nationals' hottest hitters over the past six weeks, batting .298 with a .360 on-base percentage, a .544 slugging percentage and a .904 OPS since May 13. With Kyle Schwarber setting the table from the top of the lineup and Bell producing in the middle of the order, the offense was finally starting to hit a different gear.

Manager Davey Martinez said there were no restrictions on Bell - who was on deck to pinch-hit when Robles made the final out of Friday's 11-2 loss to the Marlins - but the Nationals will keep an eye on their slugger in his return. An MRI taken Friday showed no oblique strain, an injury that could have shelved Bell for a significant time.

"He's just got some work in," Martinez said of Bell in his pregame Zoom session with reporters. "Kinda got done hitting and in the cage. He says he feels fine. We'll monitor how the game goes with him today. But right now, he looks good."

Parra-Laughing-Dance-Party-Gray-Sidebar.jpgWhile Parra's start over Robles raised some eyebrows, Martinez said there was no cause for concern. Just a case of trying to keep everyone on the roster fresh and engaged.

"He's fine. Just give him a day, (off)" Martinez said of Robles. "He took a lot of swings yesterday earlier. So I just wanted to give him a day today."

Robles, however, continues to scuffle at the plate. Since the nightcap of a June 12 doubleheader, he's slashed just .231/.362/.308 in 13 games with three doubles and two RBIs. Robles has nine hits over that span, with no more than one in a game. He hasn't had a multi-hit game since June 9 and has only seven multi-hit efforts in 63 games this season.

Parra is making his first outfield start since having his contract selected from Triple-A Rochester on June 20. Martinez wants to get some punch at the bottom of the lineup and has Parra hitting seventh against rookie right-hander Zach Thompson.

"Just moving things around," Martinez said. "This guy (Thompson) attacks with fastballs. Bigger guy. Has a little bit of a slider. Just moving the back of the lineup a little bit and trying to play some match-ups."

Martinez had no new updates on a trio of pitchers who are working their way back from the injured list: right-handers Stephen Strasburg (neck strain), Daniel Hudson (right elbow inflammation) and Kyle Finnegan (left hamstring strain).

"They're progressing," Martinez said. "That's a good sign. We haven't had any setbacks."

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