Nationals face several decisions on tender deadline day (updated)

Garcia and Call white jerseys

Baseball’s second significant roster deadline of the week comes this evening, when teams are required to tender contracts to all players on the 40-man roster who aren’t already signed for the upcoming season.

Tendering a contract doesn’t mean actually agreeing to a 2024 salary. That process can still take place over the next two months, with any cases that aren’t settled ultimately heading to arbitration. This first step merely involves a team indicating its intention to sign a player for another season.

And the vast majority of these cases are cut-and-dried. Almost everyone involved in this process will have his contract tendered by the end of the day. Anyone who doesn’t get tendered … well, that’s the real newsworthy event.

Dozens of players across the sport get “non-tendered” every year on this date. Most are arbitration-eligible and due to earn more money via standard raises than the club is willing to pay after disappointing performances, making them free agents who can then sign anywhere they like.

The Nationals used this to their advantage last winter. They not only non-tendered Luke Voit, Erick Fedde and Tommy Romero, they wound up signing two players who were non-tendered by other clubs: Jemier Candelario and Dominic Smith.

Continue reading

Roster moves coming on Rule 5 draft deadline day

Alex Call blue jersey

There are two significant roster-related deadline days across baseball this week. On Friday, all teams must tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, with the possibility looming that some could be non-tendered. But before we get to that, today all teams must decide which of their prospects they want to add to their 40-man rosters in order to protect them from being lost in the Rule 5 draft.

This is a day that usually didn’t garner much attention from the Nationals’ perspective when they were consistent contenders and basically sat out the Rule 5 draft for a decade. But it became important again last year, both because they owned (and used) the No. 1 pick in the draft and because they had a high number of prospects they wanted to protect, forcing them to part ways with several big leaguers.

A refresher course, for those who don’t remember how this works: The Rule 5 draft gives teams the opportunity to select unprotected minor leaguers away from other clubs for $100,000, with one critical caveat: Any player selected must remain on the major league roster the entire season (90 days on the active roster) or else be offered back to the original club.

The Nats, who hadn’t selected a Rule 5 player since 2010, finally got back in the game last year by taking Thaddeus Ward with the first overall pick. The right-hander missed several months with a shoulder injury but met the required standard by staying on the active roster enough to remain with the organization, which can now option him to Triple-A if it wants.

The Nationals did not, however, have anyone selected away from them in last year’s Rule 5 draft, evidence perhaps of some smart decisions they made to protect certain players and perhaps of the lack of big-league-ready talent further down the organizational depth chart.

Continue reading

Does Call have future with Nats after disappointing year?

Alex Call running City Connect


Age on Opening Day 2024: 29

How acquired: Claimed off waivers from Guardians, August 2022

MLB service time: 1 year, 66 days

2023 salary: $721,800

Continue reading

Irvin's short start sets up blowout loss to Braves (updated)

irvin blue

Thursday night started with a lot of positive energy for the Nationals.

The team was still relishing Wednesday’s blowout win over the White Sox to clinch a series victory and put them two wins away from their first 70-win season since 2019.

It was Hispanic Heritage Night at the ballpark, so all of the Nats’ Hispanic players, coaches and staff members were recognized during a pregame ceremony.

And the Nats welcomed the Commanders for the first “Capital Crossover” night as the two organizations began to start a new relationship under the football team’s new owner, Josh Harris, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

But once the pregame pageantry was over, the daunting challenge of beating the Braves and their major league-best record became real. That task proved too difficult on this night for the Nationals as the positive vibes quickly evaporated in a 10-3 loss in front of an announced crowd of 28,100, many of whom were wearing football gear.

Continue reading

Nats finding ways to score runs despite ever-changing lineup

Alex Call HR vs. NYY

NEW YORK – That the Nationals keep winning is remarkable enough. That they keep doing it despite fielding some patchwork lineups in recent days is all the more stunning.

Consider the group Davey Martinez put out there Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. With Stone Garrett on his way back to Washington with a fractured left fibula, and with Keibert Ruiz scratched because he felt lightheaded after taking a foul tip off his catcher’s mask the previous night, the Nats lineup didn’t exactly stand out on paper.

After the typical 1-2-3 trio of CJ Abrams, Lane Thomas and Joey Meneses, they had a 4-5-6 of Dominic Smith, Carter Kieboom and Ildemaro Vargas. Then a 7-8-9 of Riley Adams, Jake Alu and Alex Call. Not exactly the Bronx Bombers there.

Yet look at the end result and try to find fault with it. The Nationals scored six runs on nine hits, getting back-to-back homers from Call and Abrams in the top of the seventh and clutch hits from Kieboom and Alu.

This is how things have been going for a while now, though. Even when they lose productive hitters, the Nats keep finding ways to produce at the plate.

Continue reading

On emotional day, Nats storm back to beat Yankees (updated)

Alex Call blue

NEW YORK – As he watched one of his team’s most popular current players fracture his leg Wednesday night and then learned one of the icons of the franchise’s previous generation had finalized plans today to announce his retirement, Davey Martinez tried to stick with the mantra that has defined his six-year tenure as Nationals manager: "Just go 1-0 today."

It’s easy to preach, but much harder to actually do in reality. But on this day, Martinez’s young and growing team found a way to live up to his mantra. With a furious seventh-inning rally that featured several clutch hits from potential future core players, the Nats came back to beat the Yankees, 6-5, and win yet another series.

"I can tell you this team has become one unit," Martinez said before the game. "They play with a lot of heart, with a lot of passion. They're starting to understand how to play for one another, which is great."

Never was that more evident on this getaway afternoon. During Wednesday night’s blowout loss, the Nationals saw outfielder Stone Garrett fracture his left fibula, carted off the field in tears. Then as today’s game was playing out, word came down Stephen Strasburg had made the decision to announce his retirement during the team’s next homestand.

If ever a group had reason for a letdown performance, this was it. But after digging themselves into an early 3-1 hole via Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres homers off Patrick Corbin, the Nats fought back late to re-take the lead.

Continue reading

Nats storm back to win, then release Dickerson and option García

nats win

As he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, the bases loaded with teammates, the tying run on third, the winning run on second, Alex Call visualized what he hoped would happen next.

"Line drive to right-center," the Nationals center fielder said with a laugh. "But we won, so that's all that matters."

Yes, they did. By a 3-2 margin over the Brewers thanks to a furious rally in the bottom of the ninth against All-Star closer Devin Williams. The details of how they pulled that off are inconsequential, right?

"You know what exit velo is to me?" manager Davey Martinez asked as he walked into the press conference room at Nationals Park. "A hit. A hit is a hit."

Fair enough. Though for the record, the Nationals recorded only one actual hit during their game-winning rally. That was Dominic Smith's jam-shot, opposite-field single, which departed his bat with a velocity of a whopping 69.9 mph.

Continue reading

After weekend sweep, Nats fall flat vs. Rockies (updated)

corbin pitching white

Remember how everything went so well for the Nationals over the weekend? How they played crisp, clean, aggressive, winning baseball against the contending Giants and emerged with their first three-game sweep in more than two years?

Well, the Nats took the field tonight looking to keep those positive vibes going against the National League’s worst team and proceeded not to do anything they did well the previous three days.

During the course of a 10-6 loss to the Rockies, the Nationals looked nothing like the best version of themselves that had just been on display. They got a poor start out of Patrick Corbin. They did next-to-nothing at the plate against a couple of unheralded Colorado pitchers. They were charged with two errors in the field. They ran into one of the most egregious outs on the bases you’ll see all year. They were called for a balk when the pitcher turned to make a pickoff attempt at first base only to realize the runner wasn’t being held on.

"We made some mistakes," manager Davey Martinez said. "A couple of mistakes uncharacteristic to ourselves."

So it was the Nats failed to pull off their first four-game winning streak since June 27-30, 2021, back when Kyle Schwarber was launching home runs and Trea Turner was hitting for the cycle for a ballclub that believed it could compete for another World Series title.

Continue reading

Nats pitching staff falters in nightcap loss (updated)

Jake Irvin throw gray

ST. LOUIS – Under the circumstances, Davey Martinez had to do what he had to do earlier in the day. His Nationals had a chance to win the completion of Friday night’s suspended game, so he used all of his top relievers to make sure his team did ultimately prevail in extra innings over the Cardinals.

The danger in going for it this afternoon, of course, was leaving the bullpen without those top arms tonight. And the Nats paid the price for it.

A trio of secondary relievers gave up four runs in the span of two innings, turning a tie game into a 9-6 loss to cap a long day of baseball in downtown St. Louis that featured yet another rain delay.

After Jake Irvin lasted only three innings in a laborious start, Martinez turned to rookies Amos Willingham and Jose A. Ferrer, then veteran Paolo Espino to keep the game within reach. They couldn’t do it, with Willingham and Ferrer combining to allow three runs in the fifth and then Espino allowing one in the sixth and then another tack-on run in the eighth.

The Nationals wound up splitting the doubleheader and will need to win Sunday’s finale to emerge with their fifth series win in their last six tries. Tonight’s loss prevented them from pulling off their first four-game winning streak since June 27-30, 2021.

Continue reading

Nats enter All-Star break with series win over Rangers (updated)

josiah gray pitches grey

As the baseball world turns to tonight’s Major League Baseball Draft and the upcoming All-Star Game festivities, there were still games to be played today before the close of the season’s unofficial first half.

For the Nationals, that meant going for a series win against the first-place Rangers before they make the second overall pick later tonight.

It’s been a tough week – and to a greater extent month – for the Nats on South Capitol Street. Entering today’s finale, they had lost 15 of their last 17 home games, last night’s 8-4 win being one of the two exceptions.

But after losing six straight at home after Friday, the Nationals now enter the All-Star break as the winners of two straight with this afternoon’s 7-2 victory over the Rangers in front of 17,547 fans in attendance.

“Well, it's a good way to finish off. Boys played well," manager Davey Martinez said after the game. "It was good. You're playing a team that's got some horses over there. To come out the way we did the last two games was awesome. These guys, I'm proud of the way they're playing and the way they played."

Continue reading

Nats storm out to big lead, weather storm before winning (updated)

Joey Meneses Cherry blossom

Forgive anyone who sat through today’s proceedings at Nationals Park and worried things were going to end up just like they did the previous five days here. It was hot again. It was humid again. It rained again. A first-place team was in the visitors’ dugout again. Surely, another loss by the home team was forthcoming again, right?

Not so fast. The conditions may have felt familiar, but the end result was most unfamiliar. The Nationals actually won.

Yes, for only the second time in their last 17 home games, the Nats emerged victorious, storming out to an early lead against the Rangers, then weathering another rain delay before cruising to an 8-3 win before a crowd of 29,042 that barely remembered how to celebrate such an occasion.

That crowd was treated to a 4-0 lead by the Nationals before they even made an out in the first, an 8-0 lead by the time the third inning came to a close.

"I talk about it all the time: It's a lot different ballgame if you go out there and score first," manager Davey Martinez said. "I hope these guys learned today by going out there and putting some runs up on the board early, our pitcher gets to relax a little bit, and they get to relax a little bit and have some fun. Hopefully, we come out tomorrow and do the same thing." 

Continue reading

Long day ends in another home loss for Nats (updated)


As soon as the skies opened in the top of the second at Nationals Park, this was guaranteed to be an unconventional day at the yard.

The grounds crew would need to put in extra work to get the field playable once the storm passed. Bullpens would need to be asked to work overtime, with starters burned up. Benches would be emptied, players would switch positions, designated hitters would be forfeited.

In the end, the path may have been different, but the result was not. The Nationals lost yet another home game, this time by a count of 5-4 in 10 innings to a Reds team that just completed a four-game sweep in impressive fashion.

Nick Senzel’s two-run homer off Hunter Harvey on the first pitch of the 10th was the deciding blow, though it was Senzel’s defensive efforts in the bottom of the ninth that made it possible in the first place.

With a chance to win it in regulation, the Nats got a one-out double from Riley Adams and then thought for a moment they got at least a walk-off double (if not a homer) from CJ Abrams. But Senzel’s leaping catch at the wall in right denied the home team a chance for a rare celebration, and ultimately sent the game into extras.

Continue reading

Call gets another shot in center field after Hill is DFA

call k's cherry

The Nationals’ continued search for a productive center fielder while Victor Robles is on the injured list landed on a familiar face today: The club recalled Alex Call from Triple-A Rochester and designated struggling Derek Hill for assignment.

Call rejoins the Nats only three weeks after he was demoted because of his own struggles, plus Robles’ initial return from a back injury. When Robles had to go back on the 10-day IL with a recurrence of the injury, Hill was given the promotion over Call.

Hill never found offensive success in D.C. Though he had a robust .914 OPS at Triple-A, the 27-year-old outfielder batted just .170 with one extra-base hit, three walks, 11 strikeouts and a .411 OPS in 13 big league games. He finally recorded his first RBI in his 48th plate appearance during Tuesday’s 8-4 loss to the Reds.

“When you’re not seeing the results, you start pressing a little bit,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We talked to him about shortening his swing a little bit, and it felt like he was getting long. We worked with him, and just nothing came out of it.”

Having already played for the Tigers in parts of the previous three seasons, Hill was out of options and couldn’t be demoted without first being exposed to waivers. Hence today’s move to designate him for assignment. If he goes unclaimed, he could wind up back in Rochester.

Continue reading

Game 86 lineups: Nats vs. Reds

Alex Call whites celebration

The Nationals tonight look to bounce back from two uninspired losses to the Reds to begin this homestand, and they’ll have a new face patrolling center field. (Though he’s not actually new, he’s just back for the first time in a few weeks.) Alex Call has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester, with struggling Derek Hill designated for assignment after a particularly rough game Tuesday.

Call, who didn’t exactly set the world on fire at the plate while filling in for the injured Victor Robles, gets another chance to prove his worth until Robles is ready to return from his lingering back issues. He’ll bat ninth tonight, behind CJ Abrams. Joey Meneses returns to the cleanup spot, with Dominic Smith bumped down to the No. 5 position against Reds right-hander Graham Ashcraft.

Josiah Gray makes his final start before heading to Seattle for his first All-Star Game. The young right-hander is coming off one of his best outings of the season in Philadelphia, and surely he would love to keep the positive vibes going before he joins his fellow All-Stars out West next week.

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Partly cloudy, 89 degrees, wind 4 mph right field to left field

RF Lane Thomas
2B Luis García
3B Jeimer Candelario
DH Joey Meneses
1B Dominic Smith
C Keibert Ruiz
LF Corey Dickerson
SS CJ Abrams
CF Alex Call

Continue reading

Robles and Edwards land on IL, Hill and La Sorsa join Nats

Victor Robles run white

An odd Tuesday night has turned into a busy Wednesday afternoon here at Nationals Park.

After some misplays in the field, a confrontation with MacKenzie Gore in the dugout and questions about his health, Victor Robles was placed back on the 10-day injured list today with back spasms in the lumbar spine, with the Nationals selecting the contract of Derek Hill from Triple-A Rochester to take his spot on the active roster

It was a rough couple of days in the field since Robles was reinstated from the IL on Friday after he seemingly recovered the same back spasms that had him inactive since May 8. On Monday, he got a late break on a ball over his head that turned into an RBI triple after he crashed into the wall trying to get back to make the catch. Then last night, he let a ball land in front of him while slowly moving to his left, leading to the animated discussion with Gore. Later in the game, he only made it to first base on a line drive off the left field wall and then struggled to go first-to-third on CJ Abrams’ double to right-center.

Davey Martinez mentioned after the game that he was going to have a discussion with Robles to see how he felt.

“We made a move today. We put Victor on the IL,” Martinez said before this afternoon’s finale against the Cardinals. “As I said last night, I was gonna have a conversation with him. I talked to him last night. I had to really stress that he needed to be honest with me. And he said he was a bit sore and that it bothered him running. It doesn't bother him hitting, it bothers him running.

Continue reading

Robles reinstated from IL, Call optioned to Rochester

robles runs @ ARI gray

Victor Robles walked into the Nationals clubhouse with a little more hop in his step than he had over the past month-plus. He wasn’t very mobile or flexible while dealing with a back injury that had him on the 10-day injured list since May 8.

Robles was back to his energetic self today because he was returned from his rehab assignment and reinstated to the active roster this afternoon, while Alex Call was optioned to Triple-A Rochester in a corresponding move.

“We made a move today before the game,” manager Davey Martinez said to open his pregame media session ahead of tonight’s opener against the Marlins. “Victor is back with us. He checked all the boxes down there. He feels really good. So we optioned Call down. Look, I can't say enough about Alex. He played unbelievable defense for us. He was out there every day. He's an unbelievable competitor, a good teammate. We want to send him down and kind of get his swing straightened out a little bit. I don't think it'll be the last you've seen of Alex. But he was struggling a little bit with the bat. So we get Victor back. He was swinging the bat really well before he got hurt. So hopefully he'll jump-start us again.”

Robles was off to a good start to the season, hitting .292 with four doubles, a triple, eight RBIs, 10 walks, 13 runs and eight stolen bases in 31 games before he was placed on the IL. And he continued that success in his rehab in Rochester, reaching base in all four games and going 4-for-7 (.571) with a double, two home runs, five RBIs, a walk and five runs scored in his final two outings with the Red Wings.

The 26-year-old is back in center field and batting eighth tonight as the Nats face reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara. But even as he’s thrust back into the starting lineup, the Nats will continue to monitor how his back is feeling.

Continue reading

How much difference could Robles make in return to Nats?


HOUSTON – It seems hard to believe given his offensive struggles the last three seasons, but Victor Robles’ pending return should be a real boon to the Nationals’ offensive fortunes.

Robles, out since May 7 with a back injury, appears to be in the final stages of a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester and could be activated this weekend, perhaps even in time for tonight’s series opener against the Marlins at Nationals Park.

Will the 26-year-old center fielder with a career .670 OPS really make much positive difference at the plate? If he performs anything like he did prior to suffering the injury while sliding into second base in Arizona, yes.

Robles was making some real strides through the season’s first month-plus. It’s not just his .292 batting average and .388 on-base percentage, impressive as those are. It’s his approach at the plate, a vast improvement from 2020-22.

Robles has always been one of the freest swingers in baseball, often to his detriment. His strikeout rate the last three seasons was a lofty 25.1 percent, his walk rate a scant 6.1 percent that plummeted to 4.2 percent in 2022.

Continue reading

Corbin effective in Houston, but Nats can't take advantage (updated)

corbin pitches blue

HOUSTON – Minute Maid Park has always been kind to Patrick Corbin, and we’re not just talking about Game 7 of the 2019 World Series here.

While that epic, three-inning relief appearance may have represented the pinnacle of the left-hander’s career and proved essential to the Nationals’ championship victory that night, Corbin has enjoyed pitching in this supposedly hitter-friendly park for years.

When he took the mound for the bottom of the fifth tonight, Corbin was the proud owner of a 16 2/3-inning scoreless streak at the home of the Astros. He hadn’t surrendered a run here since Aug. 18, 2012 as a rookie with the Diamondbacks.

This place, for whatever reason, just brings out the best in him.

Then Corbin began pitching the bottom of the fifth, at which point the streak ended, the Astros reminded him just how powerful they still are and the Nationals reminded everyone how much has changed since the night of Oct. 30, 2019.

Continue reading

Nats rally to beat Phillies, catch NL champs in standings (updated)

Alex Call running City Connect

The Nationals and Phillies took the field on a steamy, early June evening on South Capitol Street in a position neither likely expected to find itself at this stage of the season. An overachieving Nats club entered the night only one game behind the defending National League champions, who haven’t come close to living up to their lofty expectations two months into the 2023 campaign.

What took place over the ensuing three-plus hours suggested this head-to-head competition may not be nearly as lopsided as everyone assumed.

Despite blowing an early six-run lead, the Nationals rallied to re-take the lead in the bottom of the eighth thanks to a clutch, two-out stolen base by Alex Call and Lane Thomas’ subsequent RBI single. And Davey Martinez’s overworked, recently ineffective “A” bullpen somehow found a way to close out an 8-7 victory before a crowd of 29,827 to catch their division rivals in unlikely fashion.

Yes, the Nationals and Phillies are now tied in the NL East, one team the proud owner of a 25-32 record, the other a not-so-proud owner of the same record.

"It means a lot," Thomas said. "Nobody really expected us to be here. I think we take a few series like we have over the last month, and we could be sitting pretty good here in a few months."

Continue reading

Nats trying different outfield alignment tonight

meneses gray

LOS ANGELES – Joey Meneses has played plenty of games in the outfield in his career, just not yet this season. Lane Thomas has played plenty of games in center field in his career, just not yet this season.

Davey Martinez decided it was time to put an end to both of those streaks tonight when he filled out his lineup card for the Nationals’ game against the Dodgers. Meneses, whose four appearances in the field this year have all come at first base, is starting in right field. Thomas, who has only played right field since Opening Day, is making his 2023 debut in center field.

The impetus for tonight’s alignment: An opportunity to give Alex Call his first day off since May 6, when Victor Robles injured his back. Call had started 21 consecutive games in center field in Robles’ absence, and though he initially got off to a strong start at the plate, he is batting just .125 with three doubles, seven walks and 16 strikeouts over his last 16 games.

“For me, it’s about giving Alex Call a day, let him recoup a little bit,” Martinez said. “Get him out, get him some extra hitting. And then I told him, 'make sure you’re ready to come in and play defense, or whatever we need you for.'”

Thomas had been a semi-regular in center field since joining the Nationals in August 2021, but he has settled in full-time in right field this season, and has looked more comfortable in that corner position. When needing someone to step in to play center field whenever Robles was out of the lineup, Martinez went with Call, preferring to leave Thomas in one position.

Continue reading