Davey Martinez joked often in his first season on the bench in the nation’s capital about how hard it was to convince Juan Soto to take a day off, and apparently convincing the 20-year-old outfielder to go on the Injured List earlier this month wasn’t easy either, but he did go to the IL, reluctantly, on May 4th, with back spasms which had been bothering the outfielder in the days before the decision was made.
“If you know Juan, he did not like the stint on the IL, and he’s itching to come back, so he looks good, [and] getting him in the lineup extends our lineup a little bit and it will be fun to watch him back out there,” Martinez told reporters before Soto returned from a 10-Day IL stint in the third of four with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Soto had hits in seven of eight games, and he’d reached base in 15-straight before his back acted up, and in spite of the time he missed, he still led the team in RBIs (22) and was tied for the team lead in home runs (with six), and he’d reached base in 23 of 24 games and hit safely in 18 of 24 before the spasms forced him to sit.
“I feel really good right now,” Soto said when asked about the lessons learned from the first injury scare of his career.
“I know a little bit more [about] my body, how it works, and everything, and I feel very happy to be back.”
The rehab process, which did not include any games in the minors, saw Soto working with trainers until he was ready to start doing his regular pregame workouts in the last few days.
“A lot of massages and a couple exercises for me,” Soto said, “... and it was more massages and hot tub and other stuff, because it was like really tight back there and so we wanted to get loose.”
Before he was cleared to return from the IL, he went through a full workout to make sure his back was no longer bothering him.
“Yesterday I watched him do the full gamut,” Martinez said. “He ran the bases, took some balls in the outfield, threw, and hit, and hit really well, so he’s excited to be back.”
Soto said he thought the problem was behind him.
“I think it’s gone. It was tight. We’re going to keep working with massage and other stuff, [so it doesn’t] come back, but I think it’s gone.”
Soto walked in his first trip to the plate against Dodgers’ right-hander Walker Buehler, but K’d swinging the second time up, and he was 0 for 3 with a K when he stepped in against Dodgers’ lefty Scott Alexander with the bases loaded in the eighth and battled for nine pitches, fouling off six 1-2 pitches before he lined an opposite field single to left field to get the Nationals on the board, down 2-1, before Gerardo Parra followed one out later with a go-ahead grand slam.
First game back...— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 12, 2019
Lefty on the mound...
Down by two...
JUAN. SOTO. RBI. SINGLE.
TOP 8 // Dodgers 2, #Nats 1 pic.twitter.com/wBnnb9Q6ss
“His at bat,” Martinez told reporters after the Nationals’ come from behind win.
“He worked a walk his first at bat and we talk about it all the time, take your walks, and he worked a good walk, and then that last at bat, man, he fouled off some pretty good pitches and was able to get on top of a really high pitch, and hit it to left field, which was awesome.”