Martinez on calling plays for Difo and his choice for a backup at second base

The Nationals reinstated right-hander Stephen Strasburg for tonight’s start against the Phillies and sent infielder Adrian Sanchez back to Triple-A Syracuse.

Manager Davey Martinez said the Nats kept an extra pitcher because they had to use seven relievers to win the first game of the series that was delayed for almost two hours because of rain Monday.

“Just the way the game played out yesterday with our bullpen,” Martinez said. “The fact that (Tanner) Roark couldn’t go back out, so we wanted to keep an extra arm.”

So with Sanchez back in the minors and Daniel Murphy now leading off for the Cubs, Martinez could be in a dilemma if Wilmer Difo can’t go - or if Trea Turner or Anthony Rendon are not available.

Martinez said before today’s game that in an emergency situation, Mark Reynolds would play second base.

“Actually, Mark is taking a lot of ground balls at second base and actually looked really good.” Martinez said. “I talked to (first base coach Tim Bogar) and Bogy said he’s definitely more than adequate to play over there, so he’d be the guy right now. Might get Michael Taylor ground balls over there, too.”

Reynolds has played second base in only six games in his entire career and not a full game at that spot since 2013 with the Yankees.

Taylor arrived in the minors as a shortstop, but has played center field almost exclusively since for the Nats.

difo-throw-spring-training-white-sidebar.jpgWith Murphy gone, expect to see a lot of Difo at second base for the final 36 games of the regular season. Martinez sat down the 26-year-old went over his new responsibility and what he expects him to do.

“Yesterday, I called him and I said, ‘Hey, you got an opportunity now to play every day. Just go out there and be yourself’. He plays with a lot of energy,” Martinez said. “He brings a little bit of that fire. The only thing that I ask is that you don’t miss any signs. Just make sure you get the signs. He was good. Yesterday, you saw him again. He hit a home run, he acted like he hit 700. That’s Difo.

“He gets on base. He makes unbelievable plays at second base. When he’s really good, he’s all over the place. It makes it fun. He’s very talkative in the dugout, he always has been. We love his energy.”

Similar to what Martinez wanted to do from the outset with Adam Eaton and Turner at the top of the lineup, he sees the offense being more aggressive in advancing on the bases now that Difo will be a regular.

“Eaton is another guy like that,” Martinez said. “He’s that little engine that could. He brings that energy every day. So to have those guys in the lineup and do the things that they could do, it’s a lot of fun.

“And we can be creative now. Difo could steal bases, he can bunt. We can hit and run. We can do all kinds of things with him so it makes it nice.

“Like yesterday, I caught myself giving a whole lot more signs than I have in the past just because we can do more things. It was a lot of fun.”

But Martinez gave one last word of warning for Difo and others. Just make sure you run the play called.

“Just don’t miss that sign,” Martinez said with a smile. “I only get mad in certain things. That’s one of them.”

This is a big moment for Difo to see if he can convince the Nats that he could be Murphy’s replacement in 2019.

If he can get on base and affect the offense positively like he does with his glove on defense, Difo could be a major player for the Nats next season and beyond. Either way, he is extremely valuable to the middle infield.

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