Whether spring training starts on time or not, Victor Robles will report to West Palm Beach with some game experience already under his belt this winter.
Robles is now playing in the Dominican Winter League, added to Aguilas Cibaeñas’ playoff roster earlier in the week and already making the highlight reel in the outfield.
The Nationals center fielder threw out a runner at second base in his debut game, retrieving a drive off the wall and making a perfect throw to the delight of the crowd in a clip that immediately began circulating on social media.
Robles has been a regular participant in winter ball in his home country, and there’s perhaps more reason than ever for him to get some playing time there over the next month following a frustrating 2021 season.
Demoted to Triple-A for the season’s final month, Robles hit just .203/.310/.295 with two homers and 19 RBIs in 107 games for the Nationals. His performance picked up at Rochester, where he hit .301/.370/.566 with four homers and eight RBIs in 23 games, but the club’s decision not to call him back up at any point in September underscored his diminished standing.
The Nationals do intend to get a good look at Robles this spring, though, and there is a scenario in which he wins back the starting center fielder’s job, if they do not pursue another bat to play left field and instead shift Lane Thomas over there.
A strong showing in the Dominican this month could help Robles enter camp with some positive momentum and convince team officials he deserves a chance to play every day again.
* Sean Nolin won’t be returning to the Nationals organization after all, choosing instead to pitch in South Korea this year.
Nolin, who initially agreed to a minor league deal with the Nats after being taken off the 40-man roster at season’s end, has signed a one-year contract with the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to Yonhap News. The left-hander will earn $600,000 in guaranteed money and the ability to earn an additional $300,000 in incentives.
Nolin was a surprise member of the Nats pitching staff late last season, summoned from Triple-A to start an Aug. 12 doubleheader game against the Mets. He wound up sticking around for the rest of the year, making five starts and five more relief appearances, finishing with a 4.39 ERA and 1.688 WHIP.
The 32-year-old was suspended five games by Major League Baseball after intentionally hitting Freddie Freeman the day after Braves closer Will Smith plunked Juan Soto. That display of retaliation wound up costing him his rotation spot, leaving him in the Nationals bullpen over the season’s final three weeks.
Nolin, who was in the big leagues for the first time since 2015 with the Athletics, has pitched abroad before. He spent the 2020 season in Japan, ultimately leading to his minor league deal with the Nationals last spring.