Notes: Nats open WS defense; Martinez contract

February 13th, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals walked into their Spring Training complex not as one of the 29 teams chasing a World Series title, but as the lone club defending it.

“I like the way that sounds,” manager Dave Martinez said.

Washington held its first workout for pitchers and catchers on Thursday at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Around 20 players were already there by the time Martinez arrived on Saturday, eager to get the season underway and pursue back-to-back championships.

“Full of energy,” Martinez said. “I think what transpires is, when you actually win something and you become champion of something, there’s a carryover … They’re fired up. They’re anxious.”

The Nationals had a shortened winter after playing until Game 7 of the World Series on Oct. 29. There was more excitement than usual to pack into a smaller period of time as they celebrated their first title.

“It was great,” said starter . “So many emotions over the offseason of being so close a couple times, grinding with this group, so many heartbreaks in this clubhouse. To finally get the ring and be on top, words don’t describe that feeling, and all you want to do is do it again.”

Closer described the abbreviated offseason as “a very, very good problem to have.” It gave the Nationals a glimpse into how sweet another title would be. Only 14 teams have won consecutive World Series.

“I don't even know if it still sunk in, for me, personally,” Doolittle said. “That feeling is really motivating, because once you get a taste of that -- playoff baseball, a World Series, a World Series championship -- you just want more of it. And that becomes kind of a driving force behind your offseason workouts, and that's your motivation. So it's exciting to be back here, even if it was a little short."

The Nationals soaked in the celebratory kudos and fanfare over the three-plus months. They don’t want that feeling to end, and the pursuit to make that happen is underway.

“[Our] 2019 was awesome, it really was,” Martinez said. “This winter was fabulous. I spent a lot of time in D.C. and also in many other places, and the, ‘Hey, congratulations -- world champions!’ never gets old.

“But with that being said, we are in 2020 Spring Training, getting ready to start over and lead ourselves to another championship, hopefully. That’s the goal.”

Arms are warming up

Scherzer and Doolittle were among the pitchers who threw off the mound on Thursday. Scherzer threw around 50 pitches, concluding his session with his trademark grunt on the release. The 35-year-old, who threw 30 innings in the postseason, said he “feels good” because he trains year-round.

“Right where I need to be for the first bullpen of the year,” Scherzer said.

Doolittle has thrown four times off the mound this offseason, and twice in Florida. He is scheduled to throw his first full bullpen on Saturday.

"I just wanted to do a light touch-and-feel session today,” he said. “I’m happy with where things are at right now," he said.

Martinez talks contract situation

Martinez enters Spring Training in the final year of his contract as the Nationals' manager. He expressed his desire to continue his role with his team when asked about it on Thursday.

“My job is to come here and get our players ready to play every day, and that's all I’ve focused on,” Martinez said. “I've never worried about any of my contracts as a player, as a coach. I just come out here and try to do my job as best I can.

“That being said, I've had an unbelievable experience in D.C. Would I like to be here? Yeah, definitely. This organization's definitely headed in the right direction, I see us competing for many, many championships in the years to come. I would love to stay here for more years than this year, but we'll see how that plays out.”