Abrams embracing learning opportunities with Nats

Rookie shortstop has first career four-hit game, including first triple

September 6th, 2022

ST. LOUIS -- In the month of August alone, 21-year-old CJ Abrams was traded from the only organization he had ever played for as a headliner in the Nationals' blockbuster deal with the Padres, spent time getting acclimated to his new team on the Triple-A level and got called up to take over at shortstop as part of Washington's middle infield of the future.

In the midst of that whirlwind, Abrams tried to establish himself in the Nationals’ lineup, batting toward the bottom of the order with room to get adjusted. After hitting .160 in 15 games last month, he is finding his stride on offense.

“Every time I’m at the plate, I’m getting more and more comfortable,” Abrams said.

Abrams recorded a career-high four hits Monday afternoon in the Nationals’ 6-0 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. His 4-for-5 effort included his first career triple and two runs scored.

“We’ve talked a lot about him staying behind the baseball and really not trying to do too much,” manager Dave Martinez said. “I talked to him about just hitting hard ground balls, and he’s done well. He’s staying on top of the baseball a lot better. He sees the ball well. He doesn’t necessarily chase when he gets back on time and he’s doing really well with that right now.”

Abrams showcased his speed in addition to his hitting skills on the standup triple in the third inning against Jack Flaherty. He dashed around the bases at a sprint speed of 28.3 feet per second, above the league average of 27 feet per second, causing his batting helmet to fly off his head.

“Maybe I could have got four if I wasn’t fixing my helmet the whole time,” Abrams said with a laugh.

Martinez has told Abrams he is going to be in the starting lineup every day until he believes the rookie needs a day off. The reps are helping build chemistry in the middle infield with second baseman Luis García, and they are creating the opportunity for more coaching moments. Martinez lauded Abrams for being receptive to the advice offered by the staff.

“He’s letting the ball get deeper, because he’s allowing himself to get on top of the baseball so he can wait a little longer,” Martinez said. “He loves the fact that we’re trying to teach him the right way. He embraces it. I love talking to him. I love having him around.”

Implementing these techniques, Abrams has not struck out in his past three games -- all against division-leading opponents, the Mets and Cardinals.

“At the plate, I’d say kind of squaring towards the pitcher more,” Abrams said of what he has learned. “I dive in towards the plate sometimes. Kind of stepping towards him and keeping that direction definitely has helped. That’s probably the biggest thing.”

Abrams emphasizes the value of taking an even-keeled approach into each game. At the same time, once one hit comes, he rides the momentum of his offensive success.

“Momentum’s big in the game of baseball,” he said. “When things are going good, they keep going good. If they’re going bad, you’ve got to just wait for the good to come again. It will.”

It has been just over one month since Abrams become part of the Nationals’ long-term core. But before they look far down the road in Abrams’ young career, both he and the team are taking his development day by day -- and seeing the results pay off.

“We got him here, and I didn’t put any expectations on him whatsoever,” said Martinez. “We talked about that -- ‘You’re going to come here, you’re going to play, you’re going to be our shortstop. We’re going to take baby steps with you. I just want you to go out there and have fun.’ … He’s been really good with everything.”