Notes: Robles, Scherzer, bullpen

February 24th, 2021

Any time a player is a Gold Glove Award finalist, a dip in their production the following season is noticeable. Last year, the defensive-savvy gained 15 pounds of muscle and his agility and speed were impacted. After an offseason of training and playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, the Nationals' starting center fielder arrived at Spring Training in West Palm Beach, Fla., ready to embark on a bounceback performance.

“He looks good, he really does,” manager Dave Martinez said on Wednesday, the second day of full-squad workouts. “He slimmed down a little bit, his footwork has been good in the outfield. He revamped his swing a little bit -- he's a little shorter to the baseball. So far, everything looks good.”

Robles is a key member of the Nationals’ roster, so a turnaround season could bolster their lineup. In 2020, his slash line dropped from .255/.326/.419 in '19 to .220/.293/.315, and his sprint speed was down from 29.3 to 28 feet per second.

At 23-years-old, Robles is only one season removed from leading all center fielders in defensive runs saved and pacing all outfielders in outs above average.

“As we all know, the upside with Victor is unbelievable,” Martinez said. “We want to get him back to that Gold Glove status and continue to develop.”

'No complaints' from Scherzer
One question asked daily during Spring Training interviews with Martinez is: What’s the latest on ? The right-handed starter is working his way back from a left ankle sprain, which he sustained in conditioning drills prior to reporting to camp. On Wednesday, Scherzer threw 40 pitches off the mound and “the ankle didn’t bother him at all,” according to Martinez.

“No complaints. No issues,” Martinez said.

The Nationals would like Scherzer to complete another bullpen session and then they'll assess his recovery program.

Clay vying for roster spot, Major League debut
As the Nats’ roster stands, Brad Hand is the only southpaw in the bullpen. Martinez believes the club's righties can get out left-handed hitters, but the team also will evaluate its potential lefty relievers in Spring Training.

Among the group is 27-year-old , who is eyeing his big league debut after signing a Major League deal with Washington this offseason. Clay pitched the past six seasons for the Twins' organization, including 2019, when he led the Minors in ground-ball rate (71.3 percent), fanned 72 batters and didn’t allow a homer in 69 1/3 innings.

“He threw today, and he looked really good,” Martinez said. “He throws a heavy ball. We like him because he [induces] a lot of ground balls. It's got a good mix of pitches, so we're going to keep a close eye on him.”