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What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

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As is typical, we have a bit of an abbreviated schedule on Thursday. There were three afternoon starts, including the Giants/Braves game which has already ended in a 6-0 victory for not-the-Braves. That included a Madison Bumgarner homer, the 13th of his career. Some position players don’t even get there in a career. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks/Astros and Dodgers/Cubs games are still in progress.

Tonight at 7:10 PM EDT, Carlos Carrasco will start for the Indians against the Royals’ Yordano Ventura after being activated from the 15-day disabled list. The right-hander missed five weeks with a strained left hamstring. Carrasco was part of the prospect haul from the Phillies to the Indians in the Cliff Lee trade. He was joined by Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Jason Knapp. At first, it didn’t appear that the Indians would get much out of the deal as the other three fizzled and Carrasco struggled to a 5.29 ERA over his first 40 starts and eight relief appearances.

Since 2014, however, Carrasco has a 3.13 ERA with a 376/77 K/BB ratio in 339 2/3 innings spanning 48 starts and 26 relief appearances. What changed? MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported back in 2014 that Carrasco changed to a higher arm slot to add deception. Compared to his pre-2014 performance, Carrasco saw a great deal of improvement in all of the stats that matter: strikeout rate, walk rate, ground ball rate, home run rate. Last year, though, he finished with a 3.63 ERA which was way higher than his peripherals would have suggested. So Carrasco came into the 2016 season as a sleeper. Unfortunately for him, he was injured after four starts with a 2.45 ERA. He’ll try to get back on the saddle tonight against the Royals.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Boston Red Sox (Rick Porcello) @ Baltimore Orioles (Ubaldo Jimenez), 7:05 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Jerad Eickhoff), 7:05 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Juan Nicasio) @ Miami Marlins (Wei-Yin Chen), 7:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Michael Pineda) @ Detroit Tigers (Matt Boyd), 7:40 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Matt Moore) @ Minnesota Twins (Phil Hughes), 8:10 PM EDT

Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon) @ Colorado Rockies (Eddie Butler), 8:40 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 9:10 PM EDT

Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”