Even though Andrew Stevenson’s recent stay with the Nationals was short lived this time, the way the young outfielder has been playing has drawn high praise. It is inevitable he will return to the bigs soon.
The club announced this week he has been moved from Triple-A Fresno to Double-A Harrisburg, presumably to be closer to the Nats so they can call him up quickly and Stevenson would only have a short drive to get to Nats Park.
Stevenson has slashed .327/.377/.492 with 17 doubles, eight triples, six homers and 44 RBIs in 75 minor league games this season.
Last season, Stevenson got a good measure of pinch-hitting opportunities with the Nationals. He worked hard when he got those chances. That experience, coupled with this season’s starter minutes of constant at-bats has helped him to begin 2019. Now his talent has been able to show through and he has flourished at the plate.
“Just getting your at-bats in,” Stevenson said. “Up here my role has primarily been pinch-hitting. I felt like I was in a real good spot doing that last year. This year just getting my at-bats, maturing, just knowing what pitchers are trying to do. You kind of know what to expect in all the levels now. It’s kind of know what’s going on. It’s kind of just getting my at-bats and knowing the player that I am and not trying to be too much.”
Stevenson said he did not need too much advice when he was working with Grizzlies hitting coach Brian Daubach, just some helpful guidance every once and awhile if his approach needed a tweak.
“He’d kind of let me be myself,” Stevenson said. “If he would see anything, saw me get kind of out of whack, kind of give me a little reminder here and there. But this year I kind of had an idea of what I needed to do and I was able to kid of bring that all together get something going and I think the results showed.”
In his time in Fresno, Stevenson got the opportunity to hit in his home park, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Reno, Sacramento, New Orleans, Omahal and others. He noticed some of the parks had a ton of room to operate on defense, with some big gaps in the outfield that made it challenging.
“It’s fun hitting in them,” Stevenson shared. “Sometimes in the outfield you covering fences that are 420 feet. You are covering a lot of ground so that was cool. Also you got to run down some balls and just being used to playing in big parks. You come back here and you’re like this park isn’t really that big. You got some cool cities in the PCL. I haven’t been too much on the west coast and all that, so being out in California was nice.”
Stevenson lived with a pair of teammates that also had a chance early in the season to play for the Nats.
“Me, Jake Noll and Carter (Kieboom), we are all living together,” Stevenson said. “We all got a little time up here, so it’s cool. We are playing good down there, having fun, trying to contribute to help the team win now.”
Did Stevenson believe the Grizzlies home Chuchanski Park was true to hitters and outfield defenders?
“I’d say that’s one of the more fair parks in the league,” Stevenson said. “It feels like Salt Lake it will fly, but I would say our home field is pretty true with the ball flying compared to come of the other ones.”
Being a Louisiana boy, the culinary experience in California for Stevenson was unique. But he certainly was open to trying new fare and enjoyed the food offered, especially the night the club brought in local food trucks to feed the players and fans. His favorite was the Gonzalez Taqueria on Tuesdays.
“I enjoy Mexican food and they had really good taco spots around,” Stevenson said. “Every Tuesday was taco Tuesday at the park and they’d bring in a taco truck. They would cook for the team. I enjoyed it, getting a little taste of different foods. They had some good steak tacos.”
A lot has been made of the transfer from Fresno back to D.C. when the call-up occurs. Stevenson said it is a long flight and a change of three time zones, but getting back to Major League Baseball makes the trip no big deal.
“The trip to get back here, not an easy trip, but the Nats do what they can,” Stevenson said. “They make it easy on us. It can be tough sometimes but we make it work.”
With Stevenson getting a taste of the big leagues last season, he was better equipped for what pitchers would try to do to get him out at Triple-A. Getting to face major league pitchers and see all the stuff they had taught him when to take early in counts.
“Definitely. Coming up here you know what it’s like up here,” Stevenson said. “You know what to expect. It also gives you a little confidence, ‘OK, let’s do what we got to do to get back up there.’ That along with just another year of playing. The more you play the better you get.”
On defense, Stevenson also gained repetition by playing has all three outfield positions in the minor leagues. He arrived out of LSU almost exclusively as a center fielder, so learning how to play left field angles and contending with right field bounces improved his versatility. Now Nationals manager Davey Martinez has more confidence in subbing him in to left, center and right field if needed.
“Down in Triple-A they had me working all three spots, because when you get up here you never know,” Stevenson said. “My situation coming off the bench, you never know where they are going to need you. Being able to play all three (positions) was something I was working on, and have been working on the past few years, just because I came up a center fielder and that was my main focus for awhile. Just getting used to the corners, seeing those reads, and getting some game action over there definitely helps.”