LOS ANGELES -- Victor Robles was not in the Nationals' starting lineup for Sunday’s series finale at Dodger Stadium, though manager Dave Martinez insisted it was just a day off for his rookie center fielder and not a punishment for his costly baserunning gaffe the night before.
Robles got himself picked off second base in the first inning of Saturday’s 5-2 victory over the Dodgers when he drifted too far off the bag following a walk issued to Juan Soto. Robles believed the umpire had signaled for a timeout following Soto’s walk and began walking toward third base to talk with third-base coach Bobby Henley, according to Martinez. Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes fired the ball to second baseman Kike Hernandez to pick off Robles and turn what would have been bases loaded with no outs for the Nats into runners at the corners with one out. Washington did not score in the inning.
Martinez said he talked to Robles about the mistake on Saturday, but neither that conversation nor the mistake had anything to do with Robles' day off on Sunday.
“No, no punishment whatsoever,” Martinez said. “Like I said, he’s a 21-year-old kid that plays really hard. I love the way he plays, I really do.”
Robles’ first full season in D.C. has been a bit of a mixed bag, but nothing if not exciting. He has cooled off since his red-hot start at the plate -- with a slash line of .252/.303/.441 and a 93 OPS+ -- but he has also hit six home runs and has a National League-leading eight stolen bases. He has been worth 0.8 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.
Robles has been prone to lapses in the field, which have included getting picked off on the bases several times and some misplays in center field.
“I’m going to say this about Robles: I love the kid,” Martinez said. “As we all know, he plays the game the right way, he plays hard. But sometimes the 21-year-old comes out in him. ... It’s gonna happen with a 21-year old. I talked to him, but I said, 'Hey, we need you so keep your head up and keep playing hard.'”
Kendrick battling stiff neck
Howie Kendrick has been dealing with a stiff neck the past few days, which is why he was out of the starting lineup Sunday. Martinez said Kendrick would be available to pinch-hit, like he did the previous night when he reached on a throwing error from Justin Turner as a part of the Nationals’ five-run eighth inning rally.
Kendrick said the discomfort might have developed because of an issue with his pillow, and Martinez did not seem overly concerned about his status. Kendrick has been one of the Nats' most consistent and productive hitters this season. In 99 plate appearances, he is batting .306/.364/.553 with six homers, which is tied for the team lead.
“We have to keep him healthy,” Martinez said. “We don’t want to lose him for a long period of time.”
Rosenthal to meet team in D.C.
Trevor Rosenthal tossed a scoreless inning with a strikeout for Double-A Harrisburg on Saturday night, with eight of his 11 pitches going for strikes in his first rehab appearance. It’s an encouraging start for Rosenthal, who is scheduled to meet the team in Washington to throw a bullpen session and be evaluated further.
Martinez said the Nats want Rosenthal to throw a few more innings in the Minors before he is activated.
Robles grateful for mother’s support
The night of Robles’ 19th birthday, back in 2016 when he was still playing for Class A Hagerstown, he had a surprise visitor in the crowd. His mother had flown in from the Dominican Republic to watch Robles play on the road that night against Class A Delmarva.
It’s one of the moments Robles thinks about first when he thinks about the impact she has had on his career. And although Robles was not in the starting lineup, he was still excited to join MLB in celebrating Mother’s Day on Sunday.
“Ever since I was a little kid, she’s always supported me and helped me as much as she could,” Robles said through team interpreter Octavio Martinez. “A lot of times she didn’t have the means to, but she still kept supporting me. And because of that, now I can see the fruit of her labor.”
Those fruits have led Robles to D.C., where he has quickly become one of the Nationals’ most exciting players in his rookie season. And although his mom has not been able to make it to Nationals Park for a game just yet, Robles said he still feels her with him when he plays.
“She’s able to enjoy it along with me,” Robles said. “So I’m grateful I can give back to her for all the work that she did for me as a little kid growing up."