Notes: Robles' work paying off at leadoff

March 10th, 2021

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals moved to the top of the batting order during Spring Training to add energy to the lineup. It’s a shift they’re considering for the regular season, and one they have liked so far.

On Tuesday, Robles belted his first home run of the spring with a shot to center field off Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. in the third inning.

“I loved it,” manager Dave Martinez said after the Nationals’ 4-4 tie. “He hit the ball really hard. That ball was smoked.”

Martinez noted Robles has been putting in extra work this spring, including taking additional live soft tosses with hitting coach Kevin Long before Tuesday’s game. He’s seeing those reps translate in the leadoff spot.

“I like that he’s working counts,” Martinez said. “He’s getting deep in counts, he’s seeing a lot of pitches. That’s kind of nice. I think by him spreading out, it’s going to help him do that and swing at more strikes instead of balls outside the zone.”

After Robles gained 15 pounds of muscle last season, he focused this winter on regaining the agility and speed that helped make him a Gold Glove Award finalist in 2019. His production dipped to a .220/.293/.315 slash line last year, and he and the Nats are looking for a bounceback fifth Major League season.

“I'm a Victor Robles lover. I love that guy,” general manager Mike Rizzo said on Monday. “I think he's got terrific skills. He's just scratching the surface. ... You have not seen the best of Victor Robles yet.”

Scherzer: ‘I don’t have to say we can win’

believes the Nationals added pieces over the winter to win this season. Now, it’s about establishing that dynamic to put it all together in a competitive National League East.

“We needed to get a couple extra bats behind [Juan] Soto, and I think they went out there and did that,” Scherzer told MLB Network Radio on Monday. “We needed to try to find some power to be able to hit in the middle of the lineup. So when you go out there and bring in [Kyle] Schwarber and [Josh] Bell, those are the type of guys that can make an impact.

“Look, we have a core group here, and I don’t have to say we can win -- we won the World Series here. We’re trying to find that recipe of what it looks like to be able to win, because it’s going to have to be different here in 2021 than it was in '19.”

'B' game to get a closer look

As a way to get their prospects more innings, the Nationals will hold a “B” game on Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET ahead of their afternoon game against St. Louis. Right-handers Jackson Rutledge, Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry, Joan Adon and Tyler Eppler are slated to pitch in the morning matchup.

“We have so many pitchers in camp and so many guys we need to start getting stretched out,” Martinez said. “Having these ‘B’ games helps a lot. ... I know for the coaching staff, I apologize to them because there will be some long days, but we need to get these guys ready.”

Rutledge, Cavalli, Henry and Adon are ranked as the Nationals’ Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 14 prospects, respectively, by MLB Pipeline.

Up next

Scherzer will make his second start of Spring Training at home on Wednesday against the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. ET. Patrick Corbin will face the Marlins again on Thursday at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter at 1:05 p.m. ET. Both games will be available via audio broadcasts on