Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Noll calls making Nats 'best feeling of my life'

@JamalCollier
March 28, 2019

WASHINGTON -- It was during the Arizona Fall League when Jake Noll first put himself on the Nationals' radar. That’s when general manager Mike Rizzo felt like he emerged, enough at least to extend Noll an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Noll did the rest. He hammered Spring Training

WASHINGTON -- It was during the Arizona Fall League when Jake Noll first put himself on the Nationals' radar. That’s when general manager Mike Rizzo felt like he emerged, enough at least to extend Noll an invitation to Major League Spring Training.

Noll did the rest. He hammered Spring Training pitching to a slash line of .314/.386/.510 with a pair of home runs and four doubles in 51 at-bats. He showed versatility to play first, second and third base and has been open to expanding to more positions. Yan Gomes even gave him a catcher's mitt in case he ever needs it.

So at the conclusion of Monday’s exhibition game against the Yankees, manager Dave Martinez called Noll into his office to tell him he had made his first big league roster. The manager recalled seeing “a kiddish gleam in his face.”

“Best feeling of my life,” Noll said.

The Nationals made the decision to keep Noll, a non-roster invitee and former seventh-round selection in the 2016 Draft, on the big league roster for two reasons.

Injuries have sidelined their top two right-handed reserves, Howie Kendrick and Michael A. Taylor, leaving their bench short on right-handed threats. They figured Noll would contribute more offensively than light-hitting Adrian Sanchez and decided to option the latter to Triple-A Fresno instead. Noll does not have a ton of experience as a pinch-hitter, but he said he was looking forward to the role and getting at-bats against left-handers.

“His at-bats were really good in the spring,” Martinez said. “We like what we saw. He gives us a little bit of a threat right-handed at the plate.”

Rizzo also wanted to use Noll as an example to the rest of their Minor Leaguers: Do not take any opportunity to impress the Major League staff for granted. Rizzo has never been shy about promoting a player he believes is ready for the big leagues, regardless of service time. With an open 40-man roster spot created by Pedro Severino’s departure to Baltimore, the Nats wanted to reward Noll.

“We wanted to show our younger players, too, that Spring Training counts,” Rizzo said. “He kind of forced our hand to keep him on the team and to make the club. That's what young players have to strive to do ... to make things impossible for us to send 'em back to the Minors.”

The first person Noll texted after he heard the news was his mom. Even throughout his red-hot Spring Training, he acknowledged he never thought he would stick around this long. It wasn't until late in spring that he noticed -- after a few rounds of cuts from Nats camp -- that making the team was a possibility.

“When I started looking around and realizing my locker was the only one in the corner that wasn’t empty,” Noll said, “then I realized this could possibly happen.”

Kendrick, Taylor remain in Florida to rehab
Kendrick and Taylor stayed back at the team’s complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., to continue their rehab from injuries. Initially, Martinez said he wanted the entire team in Washington for Opening Day, but the Nationals decided it was more important for them continue working.

Kendrick, who is recovering from a left hamstring strain, has taken at-bats in a Minor League game without running. Taylor is still progressing from his sprained left knee and hip, participating in light baseball activities such as hitting off a tee, soft-toss, light throwing and catching at 90 feet, and some light running on the field and in the pool.

“I don’t want to put any timeline on them,” Rizzo said. “We don’t see either of those injuries as catastrophic or real long-term injuries. We're going to have them go at their own pace.”

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.