"I haven't considered any other scenario," said Nationals GM Mike Rizzo on Martinez's return in 2019.
WASHINGTON — Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo indicated during a session with reporters Wednesday that first-year manager Dave Martinez will return next season.
“I haven’t considered any other scenario,” Rizzo responded when asked if Martinez would be back.
The Nationals, expected to contend for a third straight NL East title, entered Wednesday with a 69-70 record, 7 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the East and eight games back in the wildcard.
In addition to injuries to players including Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Sean Doolittle, Martinez’s work as a rookie skipper has come under scrutiny.
“I think Davey’s doing a great job in managing this team,” Rizzo said. “He’s managed them through a lot of trials and tribulations that a lot of first-year managers haven’t had to go through, and to have a team playing with the exuberance and energy level that they’re playing at this point I think is a testament to Davey and the staff and the way that they feel about him in the clubhouse.”
The 53-year-old Martinez was the Chicago Cubs bench coach before he signed a three-year contract with the Nationals in October 2017. Martinez replaced veteran manager Dusty Baker, who went 192-132 in two seasons with Washington, but was unable to win a postseason series either year.
This year’s team was 33-22 after winning their sixth straight game on May 30. They haven’t won as many as four in a row since. Both the Braves and second-place Philadelphia have played sub-.500 baseball since Aug. 15, but the Nationals have failed to make a big move, going 9-9.
“We thought all along we had a chance to catch those teams,” Rizzo said, “and if we played the way we’re supposed to be playing that we’d have an opportunity to make this a race and it’s frustrating that we haven’t put anything together to really push them to the limits that we thought we should.”
The Nationals stood pat at the July trade deadline and Rizzo expressed confidence in the team as constituted, but a run did not materialize and the team has since traded away a number of veterans, among them Murphy, Matt Adams, Ryan Madson and Gio Gonzalez, saving significant payroll dollars.
Outfielder Bryce Harper, who entered Wednesday with 31 homers and 89 RBIs, will be a free agent after this season and third baseman Anthony Rendon’s turn will come after next season.
“If we have or we haven’t, we’re certainly not going to discuss it in this venue,” Rizzo said when asked if he’s made an effort to sign the pair to long-term contracts. “Suffice it to say both of those guys are near and dear to our heart and we’d love to have them long-term.”