Brock Holt on pitching for the first time in a big league game

In the bottom of the sixth inning Friday night in Miami, Nationals right-hander Aaron Barrett was called into pitch in a game the Marlins already led 10-3.

Barrett hit Garrett Cooper with a pitch. As TV cameras went back for his reaction, it appeared the right-hander was shaking out his arm after that pitch that got away. Barrett then walked Jesรบs Aguilar on five pitches.

Quickly, manager Davey Martinez and a Nats trainer went to the mound to check on Barrett. Martinez said after the game that Barrett had tightness in his triceps.

With the game out of hand, Martinez already had position player Brock Holt warming up. When Barrett left the game, the skipper summoned Holt to pitch.

Thumbnail image for baseballs-generic-art-nats.jpg“I said, ‘If this game gets out of hand, just be ready to pitch,’” Martinez said. “He was warming up already, and then we had no idea until I saw Barrett out there and I thought there was something wrong, so (we) went out there. He was already loose. So that was kind of nice.”

Holt said he only had time for a few practice pitches underneath the stands at Marlins Park. He had already played every position on defense except catcher in his career. This would be the first big league game he had pitched in.

“I just went down into the tunnel and threw some balls off of the little net down there,” Holt said. “They said I was in, so I ran out there and threw some pitches to warm up and you just try and throw strikes in that situation. Obviously, it’d be nice to say you struck someone out or you didn’t give up any runs or anything like that. I was just trying to throw strikes and get us out of the inning and save the bullpen. It was a fun experience and something I can say I have done before.”

Holt gave up four hits, allowed two runs, but walked none and did not strike out a batter. Brian Anderson greeted him with a three-run shot on a 1-2 76 mph fastball. The pitches were so slow that they registered on the scoreboard as curveballs. He got his fastball over the plate between 68 and 76 mph and touched 80 mph twice.

“I didn’t throw one single curveball,” Holt said. “It kept saying it up on the board. I kept looking up there so I tried to throw a little bit harder to see if they’d at least put ‘fastball’ up there, but they didn’t. I felt good. Pounding the zone. Didn’t have a put-away pitch tonight. I had Anderson right where I wanted him there and just leaked one back over the middle, and he was a hot hitter with two home runs already. You can’t make mistakes like that to a guy that’s already hit two home runs.”

The Marlins ended up winning the game going away, 14-3, splitting the twi-night doubleheader with the Nats. Washington took the first game 5-0.

So with pitching out of the way, does Holt want to set the mark for every position played in the majors as a player by getting into a game as a catcher?

Martinez came to him with that query.

“I said, ‘I’m going to have to get you in to catch now,’” Martinez said of his talk with Holt. “That’s the only position he hasn’t played. He said he will skip that one.”

Nope. He’s good.

“Davey asked me that because pitcher and catcher were the only two that I haven’t played it,” Holt confirmed. “Catcher is probably the one position that I won’t lose any sleep over if I don’t get behind the plate. It’s a tough position. I don’t envy anyone who plays that position. I’m not going to lobby to get behind the plate, that’s for sure.”

But pitching? Oh yes.

“That’s something as a position player it’s not a situation you want to be in, but it’s kind of cool to say that you have done it,” Holt said of his first outing.

He did record three outs around those four hits allowed. A fly out to center field, a line out to left field and a pop out to the catcher.

Holt came over to the Nats after a few weeks with the Brewers, but is more known for his seven seasons with Boston. He was on the Red Sox when they won the 2018 World Series and was also with them in 2019 when they finished in third place in the American League East at 84-78 behind the Yankees and the Rays, out of the playoff race.

So Holt is one player who understands what the Nats might be feeling after winning it all in 2019 and then struggling in the abbreviated 2020 campaign.

“You hear about it all the time, the World Series hangover,” Holt said. “I lived it in 2019, and obviously I haven’t been here very long. I am a believer in the hangover. You go from such a high in playing such meaningful games. I’m sure it’s even more magnified this year, going from what they went from last year to playing in a season like this with no fans. It’s difficult. You are mentally exhausted, you’re physically exhausted after the season. Pitchers are throwing more than they have thrown their entire lives, their entire careers. Starters are starting games, pitching out of the bullpen and it takes a toll. Your body doesn’t have the chance to recover like it’s used to in the offseason and it’s a quick turnaround. So many things have to go right for a team to be the last one standing.”

But even at 19-30 with 11 games remaining and postseason hopes almost dashed, Holt will keep playing hard and he knows his teammates will too.

“For us, it’s just finish strong,” Holt said. “That’s basically all we can do. We can’t go back in time now and replay games. Just try and finish strong and enjoy this last week or so and try to put ourselves in the best position we can.”

You just won’t seem him with catching gear on. No thanks.

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