Jeter Downs settles in with Nationals at spring coaching


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — On Saturday evening, Manager Dave Martinez was in a midgame pinch. His prime two heart area choices — Victor Robles and Derek Hill — had been injured. Erick Mejia, who was reassigned to minor league camp final week, harm his leg within the third inning. So Martinez turned to Jeter Downs.

Martinez had hinted that the transfer would possibly occur. Downs, a center infielder by commerce, hadn’t performed outfield since highschool journey ball. He had labored with Eric Young Jr. on drills there, although Martinez stated he’d in all probability play him in left area first.

The outcomes weren’t good. Downs broke again on a flyball as a substitute of coming in; the ball dropped for a single. But Martinez, who favored what he noticed from Downs within the outfield, doesn’t need him to press. For Downs, this yr’s camp is about taking time to be taught.

“He’s still got a lot left in his future, we want him to kind of slow the game down a little bit,” Martinez stated. “I told him, ‘You put up some numbers in the minor leagues. You got rushed to the big leagues and you got traded. Everything happened so quick for you.’ It’s almost a breath of fresh air for him here and I think he feels that way.”

Downs, 24, is hoping to stay together with his third group. He was a prime prospect acquired by the Boston Red Sox from the Los Angeles Dodgers within the Mookie Betts commerce in 2020. That was the second commerce of his profession. After being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds with the thirty second decide in 2017, he was traded to the Dodgers together with Josiah Gray in 2018.

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“When he got traded to Boston, we talked a little bit. When I got traded over here, we talked a little bit as well,” stated Gray, who was despatched to Washington within the Max Scherzer-Trea Turner commerce in 2021. “I know he’s rooting for me and I’m rooting for him.”

Downs wasn’t anticipating both transfer. He remembers being on the airport when he received the decision that he was being traded to the Red Sox; he had simply shipped all of his belongings to the Dodgers’ camp. Suddenly, he was in a brand-new group and didn’t know anybody.

“It’s definitely not what you expect in pro ball,” Downs stated. “Nobody dreams about getting drafted and getting traded a few times. I’m rolling with it, taking it all in. At the end of the day, I believe god has a reason for everything and everything happens for a reason. So some of these experiences are learning experiences to take from and to help in whatever he has planned for me.”

Downs’s first two seasons within the minors had been sturdy, and confirmed a mixture of contact and energy that helped him ascend to Class AA with the Dodgers in 2019. But quickly, Downs was hit with a actuality {that a} handful of different younger Nationals in Washington’s clubhouse can relate to: he was a prospect acquired in a high-profile commerce, and confronted the stress to make the commerce value it.

He hit .191 in 99 video games with the Class AAA Worcester Red Sox in 2021. Last yr, he hit .197 in 81 video games earlier than being referred to as as much as the majors, regardless of his struggles. He referred to as Fenway Park “magical” and stated he nonetheless will get goose bumps fascinated by the park.

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But Downs solely hit .154 in 14 video games with the Red Sox earlier than he was designated for task. The Nationals, with out something to lose, claimed him off waivers in December.

Did the stress have an effect on him?

“Maybe? Maybe not?” Downs stated. “I don’t really think about stuff like that. I try not to because it’s not gonna do any good for me or any bad for me. I try not to think about stuff that I can’t control and just go from there. Maybe it had an effect, but who knows. We’re here now and we’re a National.”

The Nationals, then, are tasked with serving to him grow to be the participant many anticipated him to change into. Defensively, Downs hasn’t had bother splitting time between second and shortstop, along with his temporary motion in heart. But he has to provide on the plate.

Downs felt like he was preventing himself on the plate at occasions the previous few seasons. He wished to make each motion in each swing flawless. Now, he desires to be “athletic.” He desires to see and react, letting his thoughts and physique work collectively as a substitute of being disjointed.

“I kinda can be a perfectionist at times with certain things, so I want everything to be a certain way,” Downs stated. “But in this game, it’s too hard. Things are too hard to have every dot and (I) line up. Sometimes you just have to be in a good position and be able to make adjustments on the fly.”

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This offseason, Downs completed the a ebook about forming and breaking habits and routines. He believes that sticking to his routine will permit him to assume much less and belief extra.

The Nationals have plenty of younger prospects to construct round for the longer term. Downs believes that in spite of everything he’s been by the previous few seasons, he could be part of that image, too.

“Baseball is a sport that’s always going to test you in some way shape or form,” Downs stated. “I think this is my test and I feel like it’s all starting to turn in the direction. So I just thank god again for the opportunity to be here with a great group of guys. I just wanna get going with them.”

Notes: The Nationals made their third spherical of spring coaching cuts Tuesday. They optioned pitchers Jake Irvin, Jordan Weems, Cory Abbott and Matt Cronin to Class AAA Rochester, and Jackson Rutledge to Class AA Harrisburg. They additionally reassigned catcher Drew Millas to minor league camp.

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