After fortuitously timed signing, Holt hopes to help Nats

Though he knew he wouldn’t be re-signing with the Red Sox last winter and wound up with the Brewers instead, Brock Holt decided to keep living in his suburban Boston home. So when the veteran utility man was designated for assignment last week, he returned home and decided to enjoy the time with his pregnant wife, Lakyn, and their 3-year-old son, Griffin, while waiting to get a call from another club.

The call came Friday from the Nationals, and Holt was eager to join the defending World Series champions as soon as possible. Then he realized where the Nats were playing this weekend: Fenway Park.

Thumbnail image for Nats-Park-Dugout-Roof-sidebar.jpg“It just made things that much easier,” Holt said this morning in a Zoom session with reporters from the visitors’ clubhouse. “Obviously, I was excited about the opportunity, excited that I didn’t really have to go anywhere and I could have two more days here at the house.”

In this most unusual season, players who change clubs need time both to travel and to be cleared to play once they’ve passed a COVID-19 test. In this case, Holt was able to take his test Friday, get the negative result back Saturday afternoon and find himself in uniform for his new team in time for the game that night.

“It’s weird: I’ve never seen this side of Fenway Park, the visiting side,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. They’ve got a cool setup over here. I think the clubhouse is probably nicer now than it is normally. But it’s weird: Everyone’s like: ‘Hey, do you know where the cage is?’ I’m like: ‘No, I have no idea. I don’t know where anything is over here.’”

Manager Davey Martinez didn’t hesitate to summon his newest bench player in a key spot. With one out in the top of the ninth and a runner on first, Holt stepped to the plate representing the tying run against former teammate Matt Barnes. Though he had taken some swings in the batting cage as the game progressed, Holt hadn’t done any real baseball activities in a week.

There was no fairy tale ending to this story. Holt took a fastball at the knees for strike one, then swung and missed at back-to-back curveballs from Barnes for a quick strikeout. Moments later, Eric Thames grounded out to end the game and send the Nationals to a 5-3 loss.

“In that situation, just try to do the best you can,” he said. “Obviously, I know Barnes from playing with him. Know he’s got a good breaking ball. He threw me a fastball that I probably should’ve been ready to hit on that first pitch. Maybe thought it was a little down, but strike one. And then he threw me a couple good breaking balls. Just tip your cap sometimes. In that situation, you just try to do the best you can.”

A .270/.340/.374 hitter in seven seasons with the Red Sox and a key contributor during their 2018 World Series run, Holt never found his groove with the Brewers. In 16 games, he hit .100 (3-for-30) with four walks and nine strikeouts.

The Nationals, who needed help at several infield positions with Starlin Castro injured and Carter Kieboom demoted to the minors, hope Holt can provide a valuable left-handed bat off the bench. He knows he doesn’t have much time to get himself back into shape if he wants to make a difference over the season’s final 30 games.

“It’ll take a little while to get back into the swing of things,” he said. “But I’m going to try to ramp things up and speed up the process, for sure.”

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