Nationals star Josh Bell stole a home run Monday while playing left field in Washington’s 8-7 loss to the Miami Marlins.
On Tuesday, Bell made a nice pick while playing his customary first base as the Nationals won 7-1 at Miami.
Who knows where Bell will play on Wednesday when the Nationals and Marlins conclude their three-game series.
Either way, Bell is showing defensive versatility to go with his offensive thump. The 29-year-old Texas native has 27 homers and 84 RBIs this year, the third season since 2017 in which he topped 25 homers.
On defense, Bell is a work in progress.
“He’s done well out there,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said when asked about Bell playing left field. “His ability to track fly balls has been very good.”
Martinez, who had a 16-year career as a major league outfielder, told the media this week that he likes putting Bell in left field as it opens up some playing time at first base for slugging veteran Ryan Zimmerman.
“(Bell) has to understand to get back behind the baseball as soon as it’s hit,” Martinez said of his outfield tips. “I (also) tell him to have fun. Just catch them.”
Bell usually hits fourth in Washington’s lineup, one spot behind Juan Soto, who is batting .316 with 26 homers, 87 RBIs and 128 walks. Soto needs just three more walks to break Bryce Harper’s single-season franchise record, set in 2018.
Soto and Bell will do their best on Wednesday to support Nationals starter Josiah Gray (0-2, 6.24 ERA).
Gray, a rookie right-hander, has faced the Marlins once, getting a no-decision on Aug. 25. In that game, he struck out seven batters in six innings while allowing five hits, three walks and two runs.
The Nationals have lost Gray’s past five starts, though he was just 0-1 in those outings.
Miami will counter with right-hander Elieser Hernandez (1-2, 3.80 ERA).
Hernandez is 2-2 with a 6.61 ERA in 10 career appearances against the Nationals, including five starts.
While those numbers don’t look appealing, his only victory in an injury-riddled 2021 season came against Washington on Aug. 26. He allowed just two runs in five innings, working out of the trouble brought on by seven hits, one walk and one homer.
There’s a solid chance Hernandez will be throwing to rookie catcher Nick Fortes, who has two homers in four major league games.
Fortes, 24, has also had some issues with passed balls, committing three on Tuesday and four overall in three games behind the plate.
“It may be not seeing some of our (pitchers enough),” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Fortes’ lack of experience working with this pitching staff.
As for his hitting ability, Fortes has impressed his manager.
“He is short to the ball,” Mattingly said. “His swing is pretty clean. He doesn’t try to do too much. It’s a swing that is pretty simple. You feel like that swing is going to work.”
In injury news, Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas seems fine, and Nationals third baseman Carter Kieboom is likely questionable for Wednesday.
Rojas returned to the lineup Tuesday after a bruised left knee kept him out of the starting lineup the day before.
Kieboom was rested Tuesday due to a sore left thumb.
–Field Level Media