Nationals need Victor Robles to learn to be ‘aggressive smart’

Washington’s next game is Saturday night, but long before the first game, Martinez will have spoken extensively with Robles, 23, about trying to steal a run in the eighth inning with his team. His colorful single had brought Yadiel Hernandez to third base with no outs, and Trea Turner and Juan Soto were on the program, which left tempting opportunities for a comeback.

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But Dodger’s catcher Will Smith threw Robles out. Then Turner struck, Soto took a deliberate walk from Reliever Blake Treinen, and Ryan Zimmerman threw himself into a force. Inning and threat en route to Washington’s third straight defeat.

“He should just stay seated, but for me this is just another young baseball player trying to be overly aggressive,” said Martinez after the game. “He has to be smarter than that, and we have to teach him that along the way, especially when he leads away and has all these thugs behind him.”

Martinez emphasized that the conversation with Robles was an open and honest exchange. This wasn’t going to be a lecture. Instead, Martinez intended to examine the teenage Dominican for his reasons for the theft attempt and then explain why he should have reconsidered.

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The scouting report, for example, showed that Treinen is particularly quick on the plate. Or had Turner found a way to get to the base, a mighty blow from Soto could have changed the complexion of the game. Otherwise, Zimmerman, the Nationals’ senior statesman who hit .385 early in his 16th season, might have gotten a rift with the charged bases.

“I’ll sit with him and explain the situation and I want to get his thoughts,” said Martinez. “I want to know what he thought first before I give him mine, and then we’ll talk about it, and hopefully he’ll understand. We want him to be aggressive, but we want him to be aggressive and smart. “

Helping Robles find that balance is Martinez’s immediate job. Robles was prone to risk taking because of his supreme trust, even if it means hitting a wall for a catch, absorbing a pitch on the body to get on the ground, or Martinez in a game that doesn’t does scare number.

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The final circumstance came in March when Robles slipped on his plant stem and scored a hit in the fifth inning of a Grapefruit League game. He then threw home with such speed that catcher Yan Gomes had to change his balance when he received the ball. It turned out that the base runner Robles was on the hunt and had stopped at the third base.

Meanwhile, Robles was kneeling with his hand on his lower back in the outfield. He would leave the game with head coach Paul Lessard but later returned with a determination that was classified as a back lift. Robles had avoided serious injuries, but the sequence underscored a daring bias that sometimes verges on recklessness.

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“I haven’t thought about who is on the line-up, what our strongest part of our line-up is, and giving them the best opportunity to produce,” said Robles on Friday in Spanish through an interpreter. “It includes being an aggressive player and having to learn and watch this stuff, but it was completely my fault for not looking over and seeing who comes up behind me.”

Even so, Robles’ rise to the starting spot signals a loss of confidence from Martinez despite a statistical regression in the pandemic-altered 2020 season. Robles battled .255 two seasons ago with 17 home runs and 65 RBI, while adding 33 doubles and 28 stolen bases. He finished sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year election.

In 52 games in 2020, Robles scored with three homers and 15 RBI .220. His base percentage, a most consequence statistic for a leadoff hitter, fell to 0.293. Robles’ defense suffered as well.

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This season, although through the lens of a severely limited sample size, Robles hits 0.273 with an OBP of 0.500. His on-base plus slugging check-in is 0.773, just like his rookie season. According to Martinez, his two-hit adjustments improve, as does his overall comfort in the strike zone.

“Basically, pitch selection and patience on the plate,” said Robles. “That helped me alot. I’ve worked a lot with the batting coaches in the cage and at BP, and that’s what I brought into the game and it really helped me to be more relaxed and patient on the plate. “