How long Juan Soto will be on the COVID IL is unclear, but what is clear is that Washington’s Nationals will miss the 21-year-old, middle-of-the-order bat on the field, at the plate, and in the clubhouse while he’s quarantined waiting for two negative tests to clear him before he’s allowed to return to the lineup. So how will they fill that void?
“Next man up, let’s go,” GM Mike Rizzo said after announcing Soto’s positive test before the season opener on Thursday. “We’ve got to make our roster moves, we’ve got to contact everybody that we’ve got to contact, and of course our first priority is to take care of Juan and his family, and then we go in our baseball mode. We make roster moves, we make lineup changes, and we make strategic changes with the major league manager and the coaching staff.
“I think you have to take a business as usual approach to it. Just line any other injury during the season, so I think that’s kind of the way we kind of attacked it early this morning.”
Rizzo reiterated what he said earlier in Spring Training 2.0. In this 60-game sprint of a 2020 campaign, which is being conducted amidst a pandemic, teams that are able to keep their players healthy will have an obvious advantage.
“This is part of preparation for baseball in 2020,” he explained. “We’re going to have to learn how to adjust to these things, and I think the team that really does the best job of keeping their star players on the field and keeping them healthy has got a better chance of winning than the other teams.”
The loss of Soto is a blow though, and Rizzo knows it.
“It’s going to challenge our depth, so we’re going to put together lineups that give us the best matchup,” he explained, noting that it was manager Davey Martinez’s job to sort that stuff out (with input from Rizzo and the coaching staff).
“The good thing is we’ve got a very versatile lineup,” Rizzo continued, speaking about the Opening Day lineup in particular at that point.
“We’ve got some very versatile players that we can utilize in different ways and I think that gives [Manager] Davey [Martinez] some ammunition to kind of put the best matchup.”
Martinez’s final decision on the best lineup for tonight’s matchup in Nationals Park?