Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked this Spring about one request he had for Juan Soto, which he hoped would avoid any unnecessary drama between the Nationals’ 20-year-old outfielder and opposing pitchers.
He wanted Soto to tone down the between-pitches shuffle and adjustment he does to reset himself in the batter’s box.
“That’s something that was created by a lot of different people, but that’s his way to get into the next pitch and keeping him engaged,” Martinez explained.
“That’s all he does. I think he’s going to be fine, I really do,” the second-year skipper added.
Asked if he thought it would be taken the wrong way by an opposing pitcher at some point, Martinez said that was what he’d discussed with Soto.
“We talk a lot about it,” Martinez said.
“But you know, they’ve got to understand that, like I said, it’s his way of keeping engaged in the at bat and getting to that next pitch. That’s all it is.
“He’s not showing anybody up. He’s not — we talked to him about it, and to a sense, we also told him, ‘Hey, look, every now and then — I know you get into the moment and you don’t realize you do it, but just back it down a little bit.”
It’s still a topic of discussion, apparently, or at least one reporter wanted to know what was behind the “interesting” moves Soto sometimes makes when he takes pitches.
“That started in the minor leagues,” Soto explained before Game 5 of the NLDS with the Los Angeles Dodgers last night, a game in which he went 2 for 4 with a walk and a game-tying solo home run off Clayton Kershaw in the eighth, before Howie Kendrick hit a grand slam in the 10th to put the Nationals up for good in a 7-3 win.
“I like to get in the minds of the pitchers because sometimes they get scared. In the minor leagues some pitchers get scared, they say, ‘Oh, wow,’ because they never see that before.
“I just try to get on their minds and all this stuff.
“I still do it here in the big leagues. A couple of the guys tell me, hey, you can keep doing it, but do it in the right situation and that’s what I’m trying right now. Because in those tight moments everybody’s paying attention, everybody wants to get the job done and if you get a little bit of that and get a little bit comfortable with that, and confidence to get the job done, you get one step in front.”
So it’s just a thing to get comfortable and build confidence?
“Yeah, it fuels my confidence. It’s just me getting more confidence at the plate.”
And has anybody ever taken it the wrong way or reacted even?
“It was last year,” Soto said. “Last year, I did against [Aníbal] Sánchez and when I did it against him, he just started laughing on the mound. I mean, I start laughing too.
“He just started laughing and he couldn’t stop, he just kept going. He saw me and he just took that thing in the right way. And that was one of the pitchers that I never get a hit against him, because he just stayed relaxed and he just enjoyed it.
“He likes when I do this, so I start, I just stopped doing it against him,” Soto said with a smile.
“But he keeps going and he just started laughing at it. And when he [doesn’t] pitch he just saw me in the dugout and he just started doing it to me, and I’m like, that was, that was the best reaction that I have received.”
Sánchez said he definitely remembered the at bat Soto referred to.
“Oh, yeah, yeah, yes, that happened last year when I saw that, like, to me I never seen a guy that I put a pitch and he comes straight to me, and I’m like what’s going on over here?”
“I thought this guy was going to fight with me or not, but, yeah, it was kind of funny to me at that point. But now I see how the guy, he’s done it every day in the box, fighting every pitch, with every situation. And it’s not like for everybody to see this guy hitting every day like that, it’s good, especially when you have him on your team.”