“He’s in the lineup. He’s good to go,” second-year manager Davey Martinez told reporters on Thursday afternoon, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr, after he’d penciled Juan Soto into the Washington Nationals’ lineup, batting third and playing left a night after Soto was scratched with back spasms.
“It’s good to have him back in there,” Martinez said. “He said he didn’t feel anything really. I think he just cramped up. We don’t want to take a chance.”
Martinez said the 20-year-old slugger gave the Nationals’ brass a scare when he locked up during batting practice the previous day.
“He took swings in the cage before the game,” Martinez explained.
“He bent over and he locked up. When [you’re] 20 in the spot that he had it, you right away think it could be an oblique. We just wanted to be careful.”
“He was getting ready for the game, taking swings and he felt it, and couldn’t get them to go away before the game,” Martinez said after the Nationals’ loss to the Cards Wednesday night, “so we just kind of — as the game progressed he got better, but still, you know, we didn’t let him hit or do anything today, after that.”
Soto was starting to heat up after a slow start to his sophomore season, with a 15-game on-base streak, and a .258/.389/.506 line with four doubles, six home runs, 18 walks, and 23 Ks in 108 plate appearances.
After the Nationals salvaged the series finale with the Cardinals, Martinez talked about the decision to scratch Soto again for a second consecutive night.
“He had back spasms again,” the manager explained.
“They went away, we thought he could play, he did everything, warmed up, and then he went to go hit in the cage before the game, and got them back. We sent him to get an MRI, and everything came back negative, so he’s going to be day-to-day. He’s a huge part of our lineup, but we want him for longevity, we don’t want to risk something else happening.”
Was the MRI a way to rule out an oblique issue, which Martinez said the Nationals thought might be the root cause of the issue?
“Yes,” he said.
“We definitely wanted to — after today — we thought it was back spasms yesterday, after today again, we said, ‘Just go get an MRI.’ So he went like right before the game and they ruled out — they said it’s just back spasms.”
Will Soto return for the start of the Nationals’ three-game series with Philadelphia’s Phillies in Citizens Bank Park?