Early this morning, the Washington Nationals found out that 21-year-old outfielder Juan Soto tested positive for COVID-19.
Soto will therefore be unavailable until he gets two negative test results back, and is cleared to return to the club.
While his first thoughts were obviously for Soto’s well-being, the news forced skipper Davey Martinez to rethink his lineup for the Nats’ Opening Day matchup with the NY Yankees just a few hours before the scheduled first pitch of the 2020 MLB season.
“This unfortunately it hit us, and it hit us at a bad time,” Martinez said. “Opening Day. I know Juan was looking forward to being out there today with his teammates.
“I just wish him well and that he gets back as soon as possible. We’re going to miss him, obviously, but we do have Opening Day today.
“We had to make some adjustments in the lineup, I apologize for not having it out yet, but we’ll get it out right after this.”
Martinez spoke with reporters for around 15 minutes and said he was going to go talk to Soto after the Zoom call from Nationals Park, where the first game of the 60-game MLB campaign is expected to start at 7:08 PM ET tonight (weather permitting).
The decision was made, Martinez explained, to send outfielder Andrew Stevenson out to left field tonight in place of Soto.
“We’re going to miss [Soto],” Martinez said, “but ... we’re very versatile. We’ll have — today we’ll have Stevenson play left field in [Soto’s] spot. We might do something different come this weekend, but today Stevenson will take his spot, and you’ve just got to rally amongst each other and try to score some runs.
“That’s all you can do. These guys are unbelievable. We’ve been here before. We’ve had tons of adversity before, these guys get it, they understand it’s part of the game.
“We’re going to go out there and compete today, that’s all you can do.”
The news on Soto, however, hit the manager hard.
“It crushed me when I heard that Soto had contracted it, but it would have crushed me if any other guy on this team would have got it as well,” Martinez said.
“Just not good for anybody. Like I said, I just hope that he recovers really quickly and we can get him back and get him on the playing field as soon as possible.”