Victor Robles returned to the Nationals lineup for tonight’s finale of a three-game series in Miami against the Marlins, playing center field and batting leadoff. It’s the first start since Aug. 20 for Robles, who ceded center field to newcomer Lane Thomas in the interim.
Robles had battled an illness recently and Thomas’ 8-for-19 stretch over the past five games made it difficult for him to crack the lineup.
“He’s moving around pretty good,” manager Davey Martinez said in his pregame Zoom session with reporters. “I gave him a couple days to get back into things. He’s back in there today. ... Lane’s been doing great, but I told you I wanted to get Vic back in there. He’s back in there today; I thought the matchup would be good for him.”
Martinez thinks Robles could prosper against Marlins righty Elieser Hernandez, whose fastball/changeup combination might play to Robles’ strengths.
Robles has scuffled mightily this season, his most challenging campaign of his major league career. He enters tonight’s game slashing .207/.314/.302 with just 33 walks and 82 strikeouts in 358 plate appearances.
But Martinez believes Robles can return to the player who played plus defense and hit 17 homers, batted .255 and stole 28 bases in 2019.
“He’s been working hard,” Martinez said. “I talked to our coaching staff about his work and what he’s been doing. ... He’s getting all his work in, putting a lot of time in the cage ... and working in the outfield with Bobby (Henley). He’s working diligent to get better and that’s all I can ask him to do.”
* The Nationals have set their rotation for the weekend series at Citi Field against the Mets. They will go with righty Paolo Espino on Friday night, lefty Sean Nolin on Saturday night and righty Erick Fedde in Sunday’s series finale.
Martinez wants to get another look at Nolin, the journeyman who has made two starts since being summoned from Rochester two weeks ago.
“It’ll be start to start, but I want to give him another opportunity,” Martinez said of the southpaw. “Give him another opportunity after five days of pitching and get him back out there. We’ll see how it goes next start.”
Nolan had the good fortune to be pitching well - posting a 3.80 ERA in 12 games (nine starts) at Triple-A - when the Nationals needed a fresh arm to fortify the rotation. He’s gone 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts covering seven innings.
Under normal circumstances, he might have already been shipped out. But with the team’s focus changed to retooling and few arms making any noise in Rochester, the Nats opted for a 31-year-old instead of a younger hurler.
And fans hoping for top pitching prospect Cade Cavalli, who was just promoted to Triple-A, to make his major league debut soon will be disappointed in the manager’s viewpoint, which emphasizes development over filling a need.
“Obviously, there were some guys that were called up to Triple-A, but we’re not going to get them up here anytime soon,” Martinez said. “I wish that ... Seth Romero hadn’t had these injuries. I’d have liked to seen him get up here and pitch, but we want to build him up as well. He has a future right now starting, but he’s got to get some innings in.”