- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2017

Victor Robles dialed his parents, Victor Robles Sr. and Marcia Brito, after he ended a call with Washington Nationals vice president of player personnel, Doug Harris, on Wednesday. Robles‘ schedule had changed significantly from the prior plan. Once the Double-A season ended, the Nationals‘ top prospect was supposed to go to the instructional league before heading to Arizona to play in the fall league in October.

Instead, Harris had informed Robles, one of the marquee prospects in baseball, that he was coming to Washington. Outfielder Brian Goodwin had a setback in his recovery from a groin injury and may not be able to return this year, opening an opportunity. Washington made room for Robles on the 40-man roster by transferring pitcher Erick Fedde, the Nationals‘ No. 2 prospect, to the 60-day disabled list because of a forearm flexor strain. So, pack your things and meet us in the District.

Robles didn’t know what so say to Harris. His parents had the same reaction when their son called.

“You could tell they couldn’t get the words out of their mouth,” Robles said through team interpreter Octavio Martinez. “Very excited. I could sense that my dad jumped in the air. For some reason, I just felt that he jumped in the air and was very excited as I was.”

Robles, who turned 20 years old May 19, is the youngest player in the major leagues. Robles, Ozzie Albies in Atlanta and Rafael Devers in Boston are the only 20 year olds in the major leagues. They have both found roles with their teams. What Robles will do for the Nationals is to be determined.

He can play multiple outfield spots. His speed is his prime weapon, which could give him a role as a pinch-runner. Without Goodwin, and with Bryce Harper still recovering from a knee injury, Robles may see some chances in the outfield. But, Nationals manager Dusty Baker mentioned a start or two and has other issues to handle.

Jayson Werth has a sore shoulder because he was hit by a pitch during his minor-league rehabilitation. He was out of the lineup Thursday. When Werth returns, he will need the rest of September to prepare for the playoffs. The Nationals also called up two other outfielders Thursday: Rafael Bautista and Andrew Stevenson. The latter has shown good speed and defensive ability during his 29 games in the major leagues this season. Baker has to handle them, too.

For now, Robles is likely to do a lot of watching. He closed his season with Double-A Harrisburg by getting a hit in 20 of his final 21 games, raising his average to .324 after starting the season with Single-A Potomac. Last week in Harrisburg, he said he was not concerned about when he would be called up. Despite the joy of standing in a major-league clubhouse, Robles reiterated that Thursday.

“That’s just the way I think,” Robles said through Martinez.

Baker mentioned that Robles is one of the leaders of the young Latino group in the Nationals‘ clubhouse, but also has layers of learning to do. Robles had the green light in the minor leagues to steal bases whenever he chose to. That would lead to mistakes on occasion. He also has fundamental improvements to make in the outfield. None of that is surprising for someone who has played just 117 minor-league games.

So, Baker is wary of putting Robles in a bad spot. The Nationals are on the verge of clinching the National League East division title for the fourth time in six years. Their “magic number” is just six. In anticipation, the plastic to protect lockers, televisions and anything else that should not be sprayed with booze, was hanging in the Nationals‘ clubhouse Thursday.

That means Robles joins a team with World Series expectations. Mistakes that would be acceptable in the minor leagues can’t happen in the majors, particularly in the postseason.

“You’re here to learn more than you are here to play,” Baker said.

Baker was just 19 years old when he took his first swings in the major leagues. He said Thursday that he was told not to gawk at stars on the opposing team. One time he was looking at Roberto Clemente stretch, so Hank Aaron took Baker over to introduce him. He didn’t know what to say. Baker was so young, he commiserated more with the bat boys than many of his teammates.

“Don’t be acting 19,” Baker said of the advice he received. “You’re in a game of men now.”

Expanded rosters allow Robles some clubhouse familiarity. He passed Stevenson and delivered a hearty greeting. He recognized a few reporters from spring training or other visits. The same gold chain that was around his neck in Harrisburg was under his warmup jersey Thursday.

He will wear No. 14, for now. Robles didn’t have a chance to pick the number. That’s secondary to the name across back and front. It says “Robles” and “Washington” which carried more weight than any number.

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