Martinez on rest, Gray, Ruiz and more before series finale

MIAMI – A getaway game in the middle of a road trip before an off-day doesn’t usually bring a lot of news. The Nationals didn’t take batting practice on the field at loanDepot Park, so players were slow to arrive in the clubhouse, hanging at their lockers or getting some work in the batting cage tunnel.

A handful of players were catching the end of the Brewers’ extra-inning win over the Braves, watching their next opponent walk off their division rival in 11 innings.

Here's some pregame news and notes from our conversation with manager Davey Martinez before the Nats take on the Marlins:

* After a brutal stretch of 18 scheduled games in 18 days to start the season, the Nationals have benefited from one off-day in each of the last four weeks. But that will end after tomorrow’s day off, when they embark on another stretch of 17 scheduled games in 17 days, starting Friday in Milwaukee.

So Martinez wanted to take today as an opportunity to get the guys off their feet for a little bit while still getting their work in without actual batting practice.

“Yeah, they hit, man. They hit tons,” Martinez said during his pregame media session.” And they do so much work in the cage. We've been taking 20 minutes of ground balls every day. Just kind of wanted them to kind of relax and get their work in the cage. But get ready for the game.”

Not taking BP before a night game is unusual, but it’s something Martinez and the Nats have done in the past.

“We've done it. We do it every now and then,” he said. “I mean, we're at the beginning of a road trip, third game of a road trip. So give them a little breather. We got a day off tomorrow. So let's try to go out there and reserve our energy at 6:40 p.m.”

How does Martinez decide when his players need some extra rest?

“I assess how much we're doing, how much workload we do,” he said. “And we got a lot of information, too, from the medical staff. And we have meetings with them. And this was a good day to kind of get them off their feet a little bit. Let them just hit in the cage and just get ready for the game.”

Three players who haven’t had much rest at all this season are Juan Soto, César Hernández and Maikel Franco, who have played in all 38 games of the season so far and are back in the lineup tonight.

When will Martinez decide he can give them a breather without throwing them out of sync?

“Yeah, I'm monitoring them,” he said. “And I'll pick a day when I could give Juan a day off. But you know, we got a day off tomorrow, so they'll get a day tomorrow. We'll come back and play this weekend in Milwaukee. So we got a long stretch of games coming up without a day off. So I'll look at some of those days to where maybe I could give one of those guys a day off.”

* Josiah Gray looks to help lead the Nationals to their first win over the Marlins this season, as he faces right-hander Pablo López tonight on the mound.

Gray hopes to bounce back after a rough first inning against the Astros on Friday, when he allowed five runs and two home runs. (To be fair, that’s nothing compared to what the Astros did to the Red Sox’s Nathan Evoldi, hitting five home runs in one inning Wednesday night.)

“Just continue to do what he's been doing: pounding the strike zone, get ahead, use all his pitches,” Martinez said when asked what he’s looking for from Gray tonight. “He's been consistent, he's been good. So other than the first inning his last outing, he shut a pretty good hitting team down. So I would just want him to come down here and forget about that first inning and continue to do what he did the rest of the game.”

Keibert Ruiz will always be linked with Gray since they were the top prospects coming back in the Max Scherzer-Trea Turner deal with the Dodgers last summer. But they’ve been linked on the field, as well, proving to be a strong battery in the making. Tonight will be the seventh time Ruiz has caught Gray this season.

“Yeah, Keibert and him, they work good together,” Martinez said of the young batterymates. “Seems like they're on the same page. Their communication in between innings is awesome. I watch those two talk a lot in between innings and what they want to do, how they want to attack hitters. And then talk about what transpired the inning before that. So they've been good together.”

* Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross are now on a five-day pitching schedule after throwing two innings each during a simulated game Friday in West Palm Beach. The fifth day to throw would have been today, but now they will throw during tomorrow’s off-day.

“They're throwing the 19th,” Martinez said. “So looking forward to watching them. I think they're both gonna try to get three ups. We'll see how they do.”

Strasburg is recovering from last summer’s thoracic outlet surgery and Ross is recovering from a surgery in March to remove a bone spur in his right elbow.

* Cade Cavalli had a really rough night in Rochester on Tuesday. He gave up five runs on four hits and two walks while getting two strikeouts.

He threw 37 pitches while recording only two outs and seeing his ERA jump to 7.62.

“Other than yesterday, he's throwing the ball well,” Martinez said of the organization's top prospect. “I know he got beat up pretty good yesterday. His pitch count for one inning was high. So they got him out of there. But you know, he's still working. He's working hard. You know, he's one of our top prospects and he's learned a lot. So he's got to continue to grow.”

* Here are the pitching matchups for this weekend’s three-game series in Milwaukee. Mark Zuckerman will be back on the beat and have coverage from American Family Field.

Friday: RHP Erick Fedde vs. LHP Eric Lauer
Saturday: LHP Patrick Corbin vs. RHP Brandon Woodruff
Sunday: RHP Aaron Sanchez vs. RHP Freddy Peralta

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Game 39 lineups: Nats at Marlins

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