“Keep it tight. Keep it right,” Washington Nationals’ slugger Juan Soto said in describing his approach at the plate after going 2 for 3 with a two-run homer to left-center and three RBIs in what ended up a 9-6 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, FL’s Roger Dean Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.
“That’s the whole thing we’re always talking about with [Hitting Coach] Kevin Long and all these guys,” Soto explained of the destined-to-be-on-a-t-shirt-motto.
“Just try to keep it tight and try to drive the ball to the middle to the other way, and then we get in later in the Spring, we get in the inside and try to pull it, but right now just be to the middle [of the field] and open.”
Connecting for an opposite field home run this early in Spring Training is a good sign the 21-year-old outfielder told reporters.
“I think that’s the point,” Soto said.
“You want to start a little bit back and get a little bit forward. I think that’s a good sign to me.”
“Every year I start to feel it in the Spring, feel it like back there and then get used to it,” he added.
“Because I don’t want to get too much out in front, because it’s going to be harder to keep it tight and keep it behind the ball, but for me, every Spring Training is a new goal, new things to do, and when I start I like to start to that way. I mean, I like it. I like that. I like when the crowd gets pumping and get excited to see me. That’s made me feel more ready to go and to get in an at bat, and I think that helps me a little bit more in my at bats. For me, I just feel excited about it.”
His manager, Davey Martinez, said he’s impressed with the maturity and ability to adjust his left fielder continues to show.
“He’s really good at just knowing what he needs to do,” Martinez explained, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato.
“That was huge. He puts the ball in play. We talk about it all the time, but he’s just a kid that just continues to keep learning and wants to learn.”
His hitting coach said this winter that Soto’s desire to keep learning and growing, and his ability to adjust are what sets him apart.
“I think he learned what the league was doing and he adjusted well,” Long said of Soto’s second season in the majors, when he spoke to reporters this winter.
“Coming out of Spring Training, I think he’ll be better equipped and prepared than he was last year. Listen, he’s got a year underneath his belt where he found out what the league was going to try to do to him, and he adjusted well. He learned how to hit breaking balls, he learned how to sit on breaking balls, he learned what pitchers and pitching staffs were trying to do to him, and he made the adjustments accordingly, so the cool thing about Juan is he wants to continue to get better and better and better.
“When you have that type of attitude — I can remember with A-Rod, he’d say, ‘I don’t want to be good, I want to be great.’ And Juan Soto’s got that in him.”
All that and easy opposite field power: