Victor Robles is getting a rare night off, sitting on the bench while Gerardo Parra starts in center field for the Nationals’ series opener against the Royals. But Robles is physically fine, according to manager Davey Martinez, despite some close calls the last two days.
“He’s just getting a day off,” Martinez said. “He had a beating the last couple days, so just giving him a little break.”
That “beating” Robles took the last two days came in the form of a couple of pitches that struck him: one in the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s win, one in the fourth inning of Thursday afternoon’s win.
And that doesn’t count a near-miss in the sixth inning Wednesday when Robles squared to bunt and felt the pitch strike his index finger, only to be called back by the umpiring crew because it also hit his bat for a foul ball. It was eerily familiar to the play in early April when Trea Turner broke his right index finger and was sidelined for seven weeks.
“We dodged a bullet the one day, because the ball hit him right in the finger,” Martinez said. “Kind of similar to where it hit Trea.”
Robles now ranks second in the majors with 15 hit-by-pitches, trailing only the Reds’ Derek Dietrich (16). It has been a source of concern for the Nationals all along because of the risk of injury, but they’ve been unable to get the rookie to make many major changes to a hitting approach that leaves him susceptible to plunkings.
“We’ve talked to him about a lot of different things,” Martinez said. “It’s just his style of hitting. One, he stands up close to the plate. Two, he stands with an open stance and then he dives (over the plate). My big concern is his bunting. When he tries to bunt, he really sticks his head over home plate. And we’re trying to get him not to do that.”
The Nationals would like Robles to try out an extended flap on his batting helmet to at least protect his head.
“We’re trying to get him to put it on, but he’s very like ... he hasn’t done it before. It’s going to take some getting used to,” Martinez said. “I saw Juan (Soto) tried it during batting practice one day. We have to make adjustments, but he kind of liked it. So we’ll see moving forward. But he’s not a guy ... he knows how to get out of the way. Robles, as you know, doesn’t know how to get out of the way.”
The Nationals also are working with Robles on his penchant to overslide bases, which doesn’t risk injury but has resulted in several unnecessary outs (like one on Thursday when he beat a throw to second base but was tagged out after losing contact with the bag).
“For me, he just slides so late,” Martinez said. “He needs to start sliding a little earlier, honestly. If you watch a lot of his slides, his front leg slides over the base and he tries to hit it with the other foot, and he just keeps going. And a lot of times when he slides headfirst, he keeps his hands up, which is the right thing to do because you don’t want to break a finger. But he actually goes over the base with everything and thinks that he can stop with his feet. And it doesn’t work that way. So we’re trying to teach him both. It’s just going to take time. He’s so used to sliding so late.”