Martinez talks cabbage relay, Soto's illness

March 11th, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- The annual cabbage relay returned to Nationals camp this year. Working within health and safety protocols, manager Dave Martinez has found ways to incorporate fun, non-baseball events into Spring Training.

The vegetable-passing competition has been organized to commemorate National Cabbage Day. The holiday was observed on Feb. 17 this year -- before full-squad workouts -- but Martinez held a belated, modified version. In the battle of Team Scherzer vs. Team Strasburg, there was a new victor.

“Stras’ team finally won, so that’s pretty exciting,” Martinez announced prior to the Nationals’ 1-1 tie with the Marlins on Thursday.

How did the former champ take it?

“Not well,” Martinez said of Scherzer.

The Nats also have adjusted their daily circle of trust morning team meeting to follow the guidelines. The players are spread out, sometimes broken into groups, rather than a large huddle.

“That’s tough for me, because I like to get these guys together to talk about different things,” Martinez said. “We like to have fun in the circle, and it’s open for anybody to speak. Sometimes it’s pretty cool to hear the players speak their minds in front of everybody. So in that regard it’s kind of tough, but we’re trying really hard to have some kind of normalcy here.”

Martinez’s goal is to keep the club loose amid the grind leading up to Opening Day on April 1.

“We’re having a lot of fun,” he said. “We’ve got some things planned in the next week or two. As you know, March Madness is coming, so we might get a little crazy on that.”

Soto battling sinuses

Juan Soto remained out of the lineup on Thursday after experiencing sinus discomfort. Martinez said Soto wanted to return to action against the Marlins, but Martinez decided to schedule the outfielder for a camp day to work out and receive fluids. Soto tested negative for COVID-19, Martinez said.

“He’s been sick for a couple days,” Martinez said. “I just want to make sure he’s OK. … It was just me being cautious. It’s still early. He said he feels fine, he wanted to play today. The more I thought about it, I just need to be smart about it.”

Corbin threw how slow?

Left-hander Patrick Corbin upped his innings to three on Thursday, when he tossed 46 pitches against the Marlins (two hits, two walks, three strikeouts). Of those pitches, he delivered a 64.4 mph curveball. You’re reading that correctly, that starts with a six.

“I think you can always go slower,” Corbin said. “It just seems like it’s a pitch that guys don’t really want to swing at. It’s almost a free strike a lot of times, especially if you can locate it.”

Corbin also threw 19 fastballs, 14 sliders, seven changeups, five sinkers. Of the single curveball, he noted, “That’s probably the one pitch I still don’t feel it’s where I need it to be at this point. But that’s what we have spring for, to continue to build up to where it’s something I can throw more than once a game or twice.”

Martinez encouraged for 2021 season

The Nationals were taking on the Yankees in West Palm Beach, Fla., when Spring Training 2020 ended on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One year later, Martinez looked back on what it was like managing that day, and he expressed his excitement for this season.

“We played the game, and we had to have a meeting and explain to the guys what was going on,” Martinez recalled. “It wasn’t fun. At that particular moment, we thought it was going to be a couple weeks -- it ended up being a few months. It was tough. It was tough for everybody.

“But I’m glad we’re back. We started Spring Training on time, everything’s looking great. The guys are doing well, we’re following protocol, everyone’s staying healthy. We’re looking forward to Opening Day. I keep my fingers crossed that we have some fans. We’d love to have our fans back, and hopefully that will happen.”