Junkies Spring Training: Interviews, Quotes & Nuggets

Chris Lingebach
March 05, 2019 - 10:34 pm
Junkies Spring Training: Interviews, Quotes & Nuggets

The Sports Junkies made their annual trek down to West Palm Beach, taking in the sights and sounds from Nats spring training.

From the jump they noticed something – one giant, looming figure – was missing. But it may not be such a negative.

If you've been living under a rock for two days, here's the best of what you missed from The Junkies latest trip to the Ballpark of The Palm Beaches.

Davey Martinez (Skipper)

Nationals second-year manager Davey Martinez has challenged Trea Turner to utilize his speed more in 2019, expecting 75-80 stolen base attempts out of the 25-year-old. The thought process is simple: that a high volume of attempts will lead to better production.

"I did a lot of stuff over the winter, and you watch some of the great base-runners, Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines. I went back. In the year that (Jacoby) Ellsbury stole all those bases. You see how many attempts these guys (had)," Martinez told The Junkies. "Rickey Henderson had like over 100 attempts every year. And Tim Raines, he was up in the 80s. Ellsbury – the year he stole all those bases – he was like 88 attempts."

Henderson was caught stealing 42 times in 1982, but successfully swiped 130 bags. That's right. He had 172 stolen base attempts for the Athletics that season, averaging more than one attempt per game.

Raines recorded a career-high 90 stolen bases for the Expos in '83. He also maxed out with 104 attempts.

More recently, Ellsbury stole 70 bases – on 82 attempts – for the Red Sox in 2009. The closest anyone's come since was Juan Pierre, with 68 stolen bases (on 86 attempts) in 2010. Dee Gordon was the second-closest with 64 stolen bases (83 attempts) in 2014.

Martinez has emphasized baserunning as whole for his club, tripling the drills they've run as compared to last spring. "Our baserunning last year was horrid," he said.

The Junks addressed the elephant in the room, mentioning Bryce Harper comes to town on April 2. To that, Martinez quipped, "Could you imagine me telling Max, 'Hey, we're going to walk him?'"

Trevor Rosenthal (RHP)

Rosenthal, one of Washington's shrewder offseason signings, looks to bounce back from Tommy John surgery with his new club. The 28-year-old reliever racked up 93 saves for the Cardinals from 2014 to 2015. After missing all of 2018, Rosenthal showed off his massive surgery scar -- and forearms -- while discussing the long road back with The Junks. JP also awkwardly marvels at how white his teeth are.

Ryan Zimmerman (1B)

The elder statesman of this group at 34, Zimmerman leaned into his wisdom to suggest Major League Baseball could stand to shorten its seasons. Zimmerman holds some pretty radical beliefs on changes that could be made to improve the game, like calling for draft lottery, in which "the team that has the most wins gets the most ping pong balls."

He also simplified Harper departing in free agency, reducing it down to "the nature of the business... People come, people go." He heaped praise on Mike Rizzo and the front office for weathering the storm, building a club that can sustain such a magnificent loss with careful planning and a well-executed offseason.

"We've known this for years that it could happen," he said. "No one wanted it to happen, but it did. So we were ready for it."

Mike Rizzo (GM/President, Baseball Ops.)

Mike Rizzo felt no need to tread lightly around his club's first-ever game against Bryce Harper.

Rizzo spoke rather bluntly about the Nats' offer to Harper, made way back on the final day of the 2018 season: "They never told us what their feelings were towards it. They did not counter on it at all."

Patrick Corbin (LHP)

The writing was pretty much on the wall for Harper when the Nats swooped in to ink Corbin to a six-year, $140 million contract in December. Corbin, a man of modest means, celebrated the deal by treating himself to "a very nice dinner."

Corbin, another Tommy John recipient, felt devastated to learn he'd need the surgery in 2014. It wasn't until Corbin's junior year of high school that he became a pitcher, so he figured he had less wear and tear than most.

"I didn't throw as much as a lot of kids do when they're younger," he said. "So I don't know why it happened. I tried to do the right things before."

As a New York native, the Yankees seemed like the early favorites to land Corbin at the start of free agency.

"I never thought I'd have the opportunity to play professional baseball, let alone the Yankees," he said. "So they were a team that I was involved this offseason and got to visit them, but we just felt like this was the right play."

"I've played these guys every year since I've been in the big leagues, so I knew what it was like here," he said. "We liked going to D.C. I just think this team is really good. From top to bottom, I don't think there's a weakness. And it looks like they're going to continue to get better and that's what brought me here."

Corbin goes on to explain why this could be a "special season" for the Nationals.

Kurt Suzuki (C) - Excited to be back. Values winning as he gets older. Splitting playing time?

Suzuki was the first of two big upgrades at catcher for the Nats. Now 35, it's been six years since Suzuki – a member of Washington's first playoff team in 2012 – was last a regular at Nats Park. Only three players remain on the club from his first stint in Washington: Strasburg, Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon.

"I'm really excited to come back here and get the season going," Suzuki told The Junks. "Last time I was here, there was some heartbreak. I feel like this time around it could be even more special and that was a big reason for me coming back."

That 2012 club surged into the playoffs on 98 wins but were eliminated in heartbreaking fashion by the Cardinals in the NLDS. "I still haven't forgot about that one," Suzuki said.

He signed a two-year, $10 million deal to return in November. Just 10 days later, the Nats pulled the trigger on a trade for Yan Gomes, adding an All-Star into the platoon mix at backstop.

Yan Gomes (C)

Gomes brings the experience of having already caught for an uber-talented staff – Cleveland's Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger. That will come in handy with a Nats staff that boasts Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin.

Sometimes the best way to deal with established veterans on the mound is to just get out of their way.

"Really with Max, it's just really good to know his personality and what gets him going," Gomes said. "Max does what Max does. I don't think I'm gonna teach him anything new. I don't think I'm gonna change anything about him. I think it's just a matter of getting near the same page, and just working with him and getting him to be in his rhythm and just letting him go out there and throw."

Trea Turner (SS)

Tuner has accepted his manager's base-stealing challenge, although he admits he doesn't set goals for himself, that he'd rather let the game dictate how many bases he steals in that regard. 

But, "If I can get on base and get that many opportunities to steal a base," he says, "I think I'm doing something right."

Turner went on the share his base-stealing secrets with The Junks, how he knows when to go, the preparation involved, etc.

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