The Cy Young favorite managed the Nationals again, scattering one run and three hits on 99 pitches and eight dominant innings. Erick Fedde, meanwhile, drove in four runs in 5⅔ innings and didn’t get much help from Washington’s defense. JJ Bleday’s two-run single in the first could have been caught by Lane Thomas or Victor Robles at center right. Round six could have ended before Miguel Rojas’ RBI double, although Ildemaro Vargas and Joey Meneses couldn’t connect to pull off Bryan De La Cruz. In between, De La Cruz beat Fedde with a solo homer in the fourth.
And the rest of the experience for the minor leaguers: Meeting with manager Dave Martinez and general manager Mike Rizzo before the contest – more sitting close to their ultimate dreams.
“It’s nice to see these guys. I know we’re going to see a lot more of them here in the future,” Martinez said. “These guys coming to the instructional league, it’s a boost for their career. These are the guys who we believe really have the opportunity to improve, to improve quickly and to come here to help us in some way.
“So it was nice to go over there and introduce myself.”
During warmups, some of the Nationals’ top prospects were scattered four rows beyond the third base line. Among them were teenage outfielders James Wood and Elijah Green, right-handers Jackson Rutledge and Andry Lara, flamethrower Jarlin Susana and slugger TJ White. Infielder Sammy Infante, a 2021 second-round pick, translated Rizzo and Martinez’s messages for the Latin American guys. At the end of the short talks, Green, an 18-year-old outfielder selected fifth overall by the Nationals this summer, was surrounded by autograph dogs.
When could either of them reach the majors? It’s nothing more than a guessing game. But on the field before the first pitch – and then in the lineup against Alcántara – was tangible proof of the Nationals’ desire to accelerate players.
Israel Pineda, a 22-year-old receiver, was destined for the instructional league before spending six games with the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings and being promoted in place of injured Keibert Ruiz. On Saturday, he supported Riley Adams, stopping by his recent peers to chat with a few members of the player development team.
Cade Cavalli, 24, made his debut this month and is in Miami treating his shoulder with Washington medical staff. Luis García, 22 and younger than Rutledge, the club’s 2019 first-round pick, started second and beat second. CJ Abrams, 21 and arriving in the Juan Soto-Josh Bell comeback with Wood and Susana, played short and dropped a bunt single in the second.
Soon, then, the youth movement could include a player who wore jeans and a button-up shirt to watch the Nationals in Miami. Who knows, maybe there will be two or three or four.
“What I noticed: We have big kids,” Martinez said. “We have some stallions there so I can’t wait to get my hands on them and start working with them a bit too.”
Who collected the hits of Alcántara? Meneses (home run in the first), Abrams (bunt single in the second) and Alex Call (single in the fourth). Call actually reached all three of his bats, doing it with a walk, that shot and taking a 99 mph lead to the forearm. He’s reached six of his seven plate appearances against Alcántara, who he didn’t face until last week. Thomas, meanwhile, is down to 0 for 15 with nine strikeouts when Alcántara is on the mound. Alcántara retired 11.
“It’s amazing, his ability to throw three shots so aggressively into the area and make the guys feel so uncomfortable,” Fedde said of Alcántara. “As an opposing pitcher, he also doesn’t give you much time to breathe. He’s having a great year and will probably win the Cy Young.
What’s new on Patrick Corbin? Due to Corbin’s back spasms, the Nationals will skip his next round and see if he can return for another start before the offseason. That puts a hole in the rotation for Wednesday, as the club also don’t know if Josiah Gray will pitch again. Corbin, 33, quit his previous outing after just 10 pitches. Aside from a brief stint on the coronavirus-related injured list last year, he hasn’t been to IL since signing a six-year, $140 million deal with Washington ahead of the 2019 season. Without him against the Atlanta Braves, the Nationals will look to Cory Abbott on Monday, Paolo Espino on Tuesday and a TBD pitcher for the Finals.
Later in the week, Washington is scheduled to cover four games in three days against the Philadelphia Phillies, including a double on Oct. 1. If the Nationals need an arm of depth among the 40 players, Joan Adon and Tommy Romero are options. MacKenzie Gore could be too as the southpaw is set to make a fourth appearance in rehab with the Red Wings on Monday.