ST. LOUIS - Davey Martinez experienced chest pain during Sunday’s game and underwent a minor procedure this morning in Washington that will prevent him from managing tonight’s game and perhaps more until doctors clear him to return to work, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo revealed late this afternoon.
Bench coach Chip Hale, who finished out Sunday’s 7-0 win over the Braves after Martinez fell ill during the sixth inning, will manage in his stead. First base coach Tim Bogar will shift to bench coach beginning with tonight’s series opener against the Cardinals, with assistant hitting coach Joe Dillon taking over as first base coach.
Martinez had a cardiac catheterization, a procedure used to diagnose and treat certain cardiovascular conditions. Rizzo described the 53-year-old’s mood after the procedure - in which a catheter is inserted in an artery or vein in the groin, neck or arm and threaded through blood vessels to the heart - as positive but offered no timetable for his return.
“I spoke to him a couple hours ago, and he was upbeat and felt fine,” Rizzo said. “He’s going to be kept over there for some routine follow-up blood work and examination, and he’ll be back with the team when he feels up to it. We have no other information. We have to wait until we get all the tests.”
News of Martinez’s situation slowly made its way through the dugout during the final innings of Sunday’s game, and players were informed afterward that their second-year manager had gone to the hospital for precautionary reasons.
The team’s charter flight left for St. Louis on Sunday evening without Martinez on board, but players and other members of the traveling party appear not to have known about the cardiac catheterization procedure until it happened today.
“I’ve seen in situations in the past where guys, players, coaches have passed out or something,” Hale said. “There was nothing like that. He just said: ‘I’m not feeling great,’ so let’s go check you out. And then had a bunch of doctors back there and they decided to take him to the hospital for precautionary reasons. There wasn’t anything that was that scary for anybody at that point. I think players started to notice, like: ‘Where’s Davey?’ So there was a time when nobody knew what was going on.”
Hale said he has been texting with Martinez throughout the day, and the manager even sent him a suggested lineup for tonight’s opener at Busch Stadium. Hale joked Martinez might go so far as to text in-game suggestions to members of the clubhouse staff and ask them to relay the info to him in the dugout.
“Oh, yeah,” Hale said with a laugh. “He’s definitely in the action.”
Martinez’s health scare comes near the end of a long and arduous season that has seen the Nationals bounce back from a 19-31 start to post the majors’ best record over a three-month stretch but now lose eight of their last 13 games. They head into the final two weeks of the regular season holding a 1 1/2-game lead over the Cubs for home field in the National League wild card game, and a 2 1/2-game lead over the Brewers for a spot in the Oct. 1 winner-take-all game.
This past weekend’s series with the Braves was particularly stressful for Martinez, starting with the team’s early-morning arrival in Washington after a rain-delayed game in Minnesota on Thursday night. His team dropped the first two games of the series with division-leading Atlanta and lost Saturday’s game in especially agonizing fashion, taking a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning before the bullpen surrendered 10 unanswered runs.
Martinez also came under some criticism after he inquired with umpires about checking to see if Charlie Culberson, trying to bunt in a key spot in Saturday’s game, offered at a 91 mph fastball from Fernando Rodney that struck him in the face. First base umpire Bill Welke ruled that Culberson (who suffered multiple facial fractures and is now out for the rest of the season) indeed offered at the pitch, making it a strike instead of a hit-by-pitch, a decision that prompted Braves manager Brian Snitker to argue and get ejected.
A still-emotional Martinez offered apologies and sympathies to the Braves during his pregame session with reporters Sunday morning. He also conveyed those thoughts to Snitker in a phone conversation.
“I spoke to him right before (Sunday’s) game, and he looked fine,” Rizzo said. “And speaking to him today, it really reassured me that he’s doing great. He’s a tough, strong guy, and I think that looking at what transpired today, we’re happy and optimistic and hoping that he’ll be able to make a full recovery.”
Hale, 54, has taken over in-game managerial duties before when Martinez has been ejected. He also served as Diamondbacks manager in 2015-16, during which he went 148-176.
The former big league infielder insists nothing will change during this current managerial stint, however long it lasts.
“The players we have are what we have,” Hale said. “You can’t create anybody new here or change it. So the way Davey’s been running the game is pretty much how I’ve run games before. And the situations will dictate how we make moves, whether it’s pitchers vs. hitters, or hitters vs. their pitchers. So we’ll just do the best we can. ...
“We know what Davey wants, and we know what the players can do and who’s healthy and who’s feeling the best at this point in September. Guys are pushing as best as they can.”
Players are trying to proceed in a normal manner, as well, while acknowledging this isn’t a normal situation.
“You’re used to the same guy being there, telling us what he expects from us,” shortstop Trea Turner said. “I know the whole staff’s there, but just having him at the top, it’ll be a little different without him. But we’re going to have to battle, just like any other day. Play the game hard, and hopefully we can get a win for him.”