Looking at some position battles for remainder of the season

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Believe it or not, the Nationals only have 52 games left this season. We have hit the home stretch of the summer.

Obviously, this franchise is going in a different direction than it has in the past. Selling your best players in back-to-back trade deadlines will do that.

But with sell-offs come exciting prospects and opportunities for young players to play for a spot on the roster for the remainder of the season and in the future.

Guys are going to get the chance to play and the Nationals will be watching.

“Yeah, I want to see these guys,” manager Davey Martinez said before yesterday’s finale in Philadelphia. “I want to see as many guys as I can play. Like I said, we're building for the future. But that being said, you're also trying to compete today. So I want to see these guys go out there and compete, and see which guys go out there and battle and play the game. It's a time where it's frustrating because we're not winning games. But it's also a time that we can learn a lot about the guys that we have moving forward.”

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Martinez intrigued by new young talent in Nats system

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PHILADELPHIA – It’s a demanding job being a major league manager. All the pressure in the world lies on your shoulders. You don’t get enough credit when you win and you get all of the blame when you lose.

For eight to nine months of the year, Davey Martinez has to worry about the 26 players he has on the Nationals’ active roster. He often even has to worry about the guys that make up the 40-man roster and some of the players in the upper levels of the minor league system.

Needless to say, this is a busy time of year for Martinez. He has his plate totally full.

But even he can’t help himself in checking out the new young prospects the Nationals received in the Juan Soto-Josh Bell trade with the Padres on Tuesday. Three of the five prospects – outfielder James Wood at low Single-A Fredericksburg, outfielder Robert Hassell III at high Single-A Wilmington and shortstop C.J. Abrams at Triple-A Rochester – made their organizational debuts over the last couple of days. And Martinez was impressed with what he saw.

“Yeah, as I said before, I got 26 guys here that I worry about,” Martinez said before Saturday’s game against the Phillies. “But it's good to see that these young guys are doing well. We got some guys, I check up on all our guys. We got some guys down there that are having really good years, and that's really, really good to see.”

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García working at second base in anticipation of Abrams’ arrival

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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.

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Gray crushed by longball, Nats avoid perfect game bid in loss

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PHILADELPHIA – Josiah Gray came into his 20th start of the season tonight looking to rebound from a tough July and continue his success against the Phillies.

The right-hander posted a 6.75 ERA over five starts in July, capped off by allowing four runs in five innings Sunday against the Cardinals. He posted a 1.13 ERA in four June starts.

He also handled this Phillies lineup well the first two times facing it this season with ​​six shutout innings on June 18 and an 11-strikeout performance on July 6. 

Neither the rebound nor the Philly success presented itself tonight, as Gray was rocked by the Phillies en route to a 7-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park.

It started right from the get-go as Gray gave up three home runs in a single inning for the first time in his career. Rhys Hoskins, just as he did in his fist at-bat last night against Paolo Espino, hit the second offering from Gray (a 93 mph fastball up in the zone) for a solo home run to left field.

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Clippard starting rehab, Thompson improving, Strange-Gordon released

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PHILADELPHIA – As the Nationals get ready for the second game of this four-game set against the Phillies, manager Davey Martinez provided some updates down on the farm at Triple-A Rochester.

Tyler Clippard begins his rehab assignment tonight with the Red Wings. The 37-year-old reliever was placed on the 15-day injured list on July 22 (retroactive to July 19) with a groin strain.

“He's gonna go and get ready, pitch down some games,” Martinez said of Clippard. “The biggest thing for me is, as we always talk about, is back-to-back days. We want him to be able to pitch two innings like he did when he came up here. So we got to see him do that. I know we're kind of in a different position, but you never know when it comes to the bullpen help. We always want to keep guys and if he's pitching well.”

The right-hander only pitched in one game with the Nationals after finally getting the call from Rochester. He pitched two scoreless innings against the Braves on July 14, his first appearances as a National since 2014. Clippard made 33 appearances with the Red Wings this year, going 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA and 1.211 WHIP.

Once healthy, Martinez envisions Clippard helping out at the major league level again.

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Getting to know Voit, Gore and Abrams

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PHILADELPHIA – Let’s play a little more “Get to Know You” with the new guys, shall we?

Luke Voit and MacKenzie Gore are the only two of the six-player return for Juan Soto and Josh Bell in Tuesday’s trade to join the Nationals so far. They each took separate red-eye flights Wednesday night to meet the team at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday afternoon.

They both met with the local media for an extended period of time, although they were at their respective lockers in the visitors' clubhouse instead of a formal press conference like the one rolled out for Soto and Bell in San Diego.

Yesterday, Voit and Gore talked about their experiences getting traded only a couple of days ago. It was the third time for the first baseman and the first time for the young left-hander. They also addressed what they expect to bring to the Nationals organization in terms of leadership and as a new top prospect.

But what about their actual play? What kind of players did the Nationals get and what can fans expect to see on the field?

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Road back to success is even bumpier without Soto

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As he sat down in front of a bank of cameras and recorders and reporters, the likes of which hadn’t been present at Nationals Park in a long time, Mike Rizzo made a statement about his decision to trade Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres for six players, five of them highly rated prospects.

Rizzo made his statement not only through his words, but also through his attire. On this, one of the most significant days of his 13-year tenure as general manager, he wore his 2019 World Series ring on his left hand, not to mention a red polo shirt with the visage of the Commissioner’s Trophy on the chest.

“I wore this ring purposely,” he said. “It shows what we’ve done in the past, and what we’re going to do in the future. In 2019, we had a slogan: ‘Bumpy roads lead to beautiful places.’ We’re on a bumpy road right now, and we believe that coming out of this thing, it’ll be a beautiful place.”

This road may indeed lead to a beautiful place someday, but that day won’t be anytime soon. The path back to winning baseball in D.C. is going to feature all sorts of bumps and potholes and other obstacles, and while Tuesday’s blockbuster trade of Soto to San Diego may produce some nice new paving way down at the end of the journey, it didn’t do anything to smooth over the asphalt sitting right in front of the Nats right now.

To be clear, this is not – and should not – be framed as a good thing for anybody. This isn’t something anyone wanted to do. It’s not something anyone should have wanted the Nationals to do.

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Nats make roster moves after mega trade with Padres

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The big news of the day, of course, is Juan Soto and Josh Bell being dealt to the Padres in exchange for six players, including five top prospects. But the Nationals had to make other roster moves to both make room for incoming players and fill an active 26-man roster for tonight’s game against the Mets.

The flurry of moves: 

* Selected the contract of first baseman Joey Meneses from Triple-A Rochester
* Recalled outfielder Josh Palacios from Rochester
* Transferred left-hander Evan Lee to the 60-day injured list
* Designated left-hander Josh Rogers for assignment
* Optioned shortstop C.J. Abrams to Triple-A Rochester

Abrams, one of the top prospects coming to the Nationals organization in today’s trade, was the both the Padres’ No. 1 prospect and the No. 9 prospect in all of baseball entering this season, according to both Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com.

He made San Diego’s opening day roster and his major league debut this season, starting the second game of the season at shortstop. He hit .232 with five doubles, two home runs, 11 RBIs, four walks, one stolen base and 16 runs scored in 45 games across two major league stints with the Padres.

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