Washington Nationals: Dave Martinez passes early tests

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05: Manager Dave Martinez
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05: Manager Dave Martinez /
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Zimmerman and the bullpen. Social media hammers Martinez for both. They are right, partially.

The experiment of letting Zimmerman sit out the Grapefruit League portion of spring will get dissected for years. Three weeks into the regular season, the first baseman is finally seeing the ball better and making those rockets off his bat find gaps or seats.

The hard lesson for both is Spring Training games matter for everybody. There is no substitute for facing live pitching from major-league pitching. Timing is an essential skill and Zimmerman did not have it once the season started.

Yet, the mistake was not the experiment. But, after a prolonged slump by Zimmerman and the team, Martinez’s insistence keeping the vet batting fourth. When teams refuse to throw Harper strikes, knowing they have a virtual automatic out next, it hurt.

As with Turner early, Zimmerman needed to be in a position without the pressure. Protecting Harper’s bat is essential and waiting for Zimmerman to swing into shape cost games.

Also costing games, Martinez’s learning curve with bullpen management. It is clear he is unsure who of those seven arms he can trust. On average, he needs around nine outs or three innings a night.

The problem? He needs pitchers back-to-back nights in high-leverage situations and relies too heavily on those who struggle with the load. Five relievers are on pace for over 81 games pitched. Ryan Madson threw 101 pitches over five days. Brandon Kintzler tossed five consecutive days.

There is a danger those arms will be dead tired come summer. Although the pen is good, it is fragile. When you have multiple pitchers who struggle on no rest, it is time to get creative.