The most newsworthy thing Nationals manager Davey Martinez said Friday following his taping of an hour-long special with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd at SiriusXM’s local headquarters was that Carter Kieboom will have an opportunity to win the starting third baseman’s job this spring.
But it wasn’t the only newsworthy thing Martinez said while talking to reporters for the first time since the Winter Meetings in early December. Here are some more highlights from the session ...
* Martinez hasn’t decided who will bat third in his lineup now that Anthony Rendon has departed. Juan Soto might move up from the cleanup spot he occupied last season. Howie Kendrick might move up from the No. 5 spot. And that unconventional choice mentioned here and elsewhere in recent weeks - Trea Turner moving down from the leadoff spot - is also a possibility.
“Honestly, I might try Trea there and see how that works out,” Martinez said. “Like I said, I like the fact that we’ve got a bunch of different options and guys who can put the ball in play throughout our lineup.”
Turner, one of the fastest players in the sport, would make for an unconventional No. 3 hitter. But his .497 slugging percentage last season ranked 30th in the National League, and he recorded more extra-base hits than Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Ryan Braun and Manny Machado despite missing two months with a broken finger.
If Turner moved to the heart of the lineup, though, someone else would need to move up into one of the top two spots alongside Adam Eaton. Victor Robles, who mostly hit eighth last season as a rookie, is one potential choice. So is newly signed first baseman Eric Thames.
“You might see Thames up second against right-handed pitching and give us some early pop,” Martinez said. “We’ll play with all those things and see how it works out.”
* Like everyone else in the organization who has been asked about it all winter, Martinez believes the Nationals will re-sign Ryan Zimmerman at some point. It hasn’t happened yet, but the 35-year-old first baseman (a free agent for the first time in his career) expressed himself last week he expects a deal to get done at some point.
“I talked to him the other day, and I know (general manager Mike Rizzo) and his agent are having conversations, and I do believe it’ll happen,” Martinez said. “If it does, here’s another guy we believe who can play first base against lefties. He understands what his role will be, so it gives us another option.”
* Despite the recent signings of Daniel Hudson and Will Harris, Sean Doolittle will enter the season as the Nationals closer. Martinez said he intends to use Doolittle (who wound up sharing the job with Hudson in the postseason) as his ninth-inning reliever, but he likes having two other experienced veterans who can step in and close games as well if the lefty isn’t available.
With the three-batter minimum for relievers expected to be instituted by Major League Baseball, Martinez said he’ll have to be more careful about using anyone from his bullpen back-to-back or three days in a row, with the potential for extra workload. That could lead to more closing opportunities for Hudson or Harris.
But as long as Doolittle is available and effective, he’ll be the guy in the ninth inning.
* Martinez, adhering to MLB requests for managers and players not to discuss the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, did say he wasn’t surprised by the severity of the league’s punishment, with manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow suspended for a year. (Houston owner Jim Crane then fired both men after the MLB punishment was announced, ultimately prompting Alex Cora to lose his job with the Red Sox and Carlos Beltran to lose his job with the Mets.)
“They did a thorough investigation and they said at the Winter Meetings they were going to be harsh,” Martinez said. “And they were harsh.”