Victor Robles kept faith in returning to Nationals

September 18, 2018

Outfielder Victor Robles ran hard toward the infield and dove for the baseball during a Triple-A game in Rochester, New York.

But when he picked himself off the cold ground April 9 in upstate New York, he was holding his left elbow. In the days and weeks that followed, it appeared that his season could be over soon after it began on that 36-degree night.

“It looked like it wouldn’t be able to work for me this season,” Robles recalled, through translator Octavio Martinez. “The injury wasn’t my right wrist. I would let it heal by itself and surgery wasn’t required. They said if it was the other arm, it would have been a different scenario.”

Robles, who throws right-handed, not only returned to the Syracuse lineup in late July he was called up by the parent Nationals earlier this month for his second stint in the majors.

“I kept my faith in what (the doctors) said and in God and now I am back up here,” Robles said.

That would have seemed to be an obvious transaction back in spring training, when Robles made an impression on new Washington manager Dave Martinez.

But Robles, 21, said it took four or five hours per day of rehab work in Florida for him to get back in the lineup with Syracuse.

“It was definitely a little harder especially since the injury happened so early in the season and I missed a lot of time,” Robles said. “I am doing great now. There were times when I got down on myself and depressed due to the situation. But I kept my head up and tried to look forward. I am happy it worked out and I am up here.”

After hitting .278 for the Chiefs in 40 games this season, the Dominican native made his second start Sunday as the Nationals’ leadoff hitter, when he played center field in a win in Atlanta. He went 1-for-5 to raise his average to .150 in limited time this month with Washington, which was 7 games back of the first-place Braves with just 12 games left heading to Monday’s game in Miami.

“I definitely want to get him in,” Martinez said. “I’ll look for opportunities to him in there; he’s our future.”

Robles threw out Cubs leadoff man Anthony Rizzo when he tried to stretch a single into a double on the first pitch of Thursday’s game at Nationals Park.

Later in the game, the speedy Robles recorded his first major-league steal after he swiped 129 bases in the minors in 174 career tries.

The Nationals signed Robles as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.

He advanced to low Single-A Hagerstown and high Single-A Potomac in 2016. He played at Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg last season, then jumped over Syracuse when he was promoted to Washington. Robles hit .250 in 13 games over 24 at-bats last season for the Nationals. Then he had to watch most of this season, due to the injury.

“The hardest part was just the fact I was watching my teammates play and I wasn’t able to,” Robles said. “That was the toughest part. I love the game. I just love and enjoy playing.”

Nationals fans are excited about the future of the team’s outfield, even if Bryce Harper leaves via free agency. The team still has left fielder Juan Soto, right fielder Adam Eaton, backup center fielder Michael A. Taylor and Robles under contract for 2019.

In the past, the Nationals have reportedly refused to trade Robles in a possible deal for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto.

“I am definitely excited about the future and the fans have always supported us and given us that extra push,” Robles said. “It is great nice to know we have a bright future ahead and hopefully some championship teams as well.”

Soto is a rookie of the year candidate and, with Robles, is part of the Nationals’ improved efforts in the Dominican Republic.

“It is something we always talked about us youngsters coming up through the minors,” Robles said of playing with Soto. “It has become true and we are playing together, playing at the ultimate level, which is here at the major league level. I am looking very much forward to doing it for a long time.”

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