Davey Martinez thought about sitting Juan Soto in Sunday afternoon’s series finale with the New York Mets in Citi Field.
Soto, 19, said, “No,” when he was asked if he needed a rest before the third of three with Washington’s NL East rivals.
“You’re sure you’re good?” Martinez said he asked, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“100 percent,” Soto responded.
While the season’s gone along, with the rookie outfielder playing more than he’s played in any season to this point in his professional career, the Nationals have tried to cut back on some of Soto’s pregame routine to keep him fresh.
“We kind of toned it down a little bit,” Martinez explained, “and [are] really honing in just to get ready for the games, get loose, and prepare yourself to play the games, and he’s learning these things, and he picks things up right away and he knows what’s good for and what’s bad for him and sticks to a routine.”
As he did today though, the first-year skipper checks in with his rookie outfielder before every game to make sure he’s good to go.
“I talk to him every day and he says he feels good,” Martinez said, “and he’s with [Assistant Major League Strength Coach Brett Henry] and [Strength and Conditioning Coach Matt Eiden] in the weight room, and they do all this maintenance stuff and it’s something that he learned how to do now, and he says he likes it and it keeps him fresh.”
Soto entered play on Sunday leading all major league rookies (with a minimum of 350 PA), in OBP (.408), and OPS (.919), ranked second in SLG (.510) and third in AVG (.291), and though he wasn’t called up until June 20th, Soto started the day leading National League rookies in walks (59), ranked second in runs scored (58), third in home runs (15), fourth in doubles (18) and RBIs (45), and fifth in hits (86).
He had, however, struggled over the last month, with a .228/.384/.354 line, four doubles, and two home runs in 24 games and 100 plate appearances in August before Sunday.
Martinez said he’s watching closely for signs of fatigue, but hasn’t seen much evidence that Soto’s slowing down yet.
“The fact that he’s willing to take his walks. The fact that he’s still trying to use the middle of the field. It all matters. It all counts,” he told reporters.
“I watch. When he starts swinging at pitches all over the place, then you tend to feel like that’s a good indication that he’s tired, that his focus is not there. But he’s good.”
In what ended up a 15-0 win over the Mets, Soto brought in a run with a groundout in the top of the sixth, snapping a streak of 32-straight scoreless innings for the Nationals.
He walked with the bases loaded to force in the second run of the game in the eighth, in what ended up being an eight-run inning, which they followed up on with a six-run ninth, avoiding a sweep with the win.
Soto finished the day 1 for 4 with a walk and two runs scored, leaving him at .290/.408/.507 on the season after 86 games and 361 plate appearances.