Robles has appeared in 18 games for Rochester since the Nats demoted him Aug. 31, and entering tonight, he’s batting a robust .324 (23-for-71) with eight doubles, a triple, three homers and a .952 OPS. He’s also been successful on five of six stolen base attempts.
“They said he’s playing well, and he’s playing consistent,” manager Davey Martinez said during his Zoom session with reporters prior to tonight’s game in Cincinnati. “That’s great for us moving forward. We want to continue to let him play every day and work things out and be consistent.”
When the Nationals sent Robles down 3 1/2 weeks ago, they made it clear they wanted him to work on his swing, not to mention his baserunning after a dismal season in the majors. The 24-year-old center fielder hit a paltry .203 with two homers, 19 RBIs and a .605 OPS across 369 plate appearances, successful on only eight of 14 stolen base attempts.
Robles appears to have taken that to heart and is doing what club officials wanted from him. But as the final week of the season approaches, it doesn’t look like he’ll get a chance to show the big league staff if he can perform at this level until next year.
“He wants to be back up here and help us win,” Martinez said. “I told him I don’t know if it’s going to be this year, but definitely in spring training, you need to be ready to go. You need to come up here and feel like you need to make this club next year.”
Martinez said he wants Robles playing every day, and with Lane Thomas having excelled as the Nationals’ new center fielder and leadoff hitter, that opportunity would not present itself over the next week.
“He’s working on some stuff with his swing and playing the game, stealing bases, working on jumps,” the manager said. “We want him to continue to do that. Lane’s playing well, and I don’t want to take Lane out of the lineup, either. So we’re going to let him stay down there and continue to play.”
Robles will be arbitration-eligible next year and stands to see a sizeable jump in his salary, which was only $614,000 this season. By all accounts, he’ll be back in West Palm Beach, Fla., next spring competing with Thomas for the starting job. Though it would seem at this point Thomas will go into camp as the frontrunner.
“I talked to him. (General manager Mike Rizzo) talked to him before he left,” Martinez said. “We were very adamant that this doesn’t mean we’re giving up on you. We just want you to go down there, relax and play every day with no pressure on you. Just figure some things out and work on the things we want you to work on. And he’s been doing that.”
* Reliever Kyle McGowin, who went on the injured list three weeks ago with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, doesn’t need surgery at this point.
Martinez said McGowin received an injection in his elbow and will begin a rehab program that includes throwing once he’s cleared this winter. The initial fear was that the 29-year-old might need Tommy John surgery to replace the damaged ligament.