Kyle Schwarber had a special visitor this winter. A week or so after he signed with the Nationals in early January, hitting coach Kevin Long reached out and offered to travel to Tampa, Fla., to help him get an early start on training.
“He was like, ‘All right, I'll be there in like three days,’” Schwarber recounted on Thursday from West Palm Beach, Fla. “It was great, and he came with a lot of good things for me.”
Schwarber is coming off a 2020 performance in which his slash line dropped to .188/.308/.393. Looking to turn his production around in his seventh Major League season, the left fielder was all ears for Long’s advice. They found a local high school where the soon-to-be 28-year-old could hit and work on his stance. One of Schwarber’s objectives was, as he described it, “get[ting] back down to my legs,” an approach he took earlier in his career.
“For you guys to visualize it, it's a little bit more squatty, in terms of that,” he said. “Not as upright. Being able to just kind of stay back there on my back side and just being able to see some baseballs better and stay behind them, and not being able to travel as much I think is the best way to describe it."
Schwarber took what he learned from Long and incorporated it into his workouts leading up to Spring Training. The Nationals assigned him to the same batting practice group as Juan Soto so he could continue to hone in on hitting to the middle of the field (part of Soto’s offensive repertoire), and the team has taken notice of the offseason work paying off.
“I like where he’s at right now,” manager Dave Martinez said, “Kyle has such a good eye. We want to get him to where, when he gets that pitch that’s in that zone for him, he can’t foul it off, he’s got to put it in play. When he does that, he’s going to be really good. If we can get him to do that consistently, you’ll see the average go up with the walks as well.”
Jeffress throws first bullpen session
Right-handed reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals on Monday, tossed 22 pitches on Thursday. The 2020 National League Reliever of the Year Award finalist “threw the ball really well,” according to Martinez, in his first bullpen session.
“He was throwing strikes just like I know he could,” Martinez said. “So I'm excited that he's here. He's excited to be here. We’re going to take it slow with him.”
The Nationals announced their radio broadcast schedule for Spring Training, with games being aired on 106.7 The Fan (WJFK-FM) and The Team 980 (WTEM-AM), as well as streamed on Nationals.com. 106.7 the Fan also will broadcast a two-part season preview with radio voices Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler from 6:30-8 p.m. ET on March 17 and 22.
• 106.7 The Fan: March 14, 17, 21-22, 24
• The Team 980: March 13, 16, 19-20, 25
• Nationals.com: March 9-11, 15, 23, 28-29