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Washington Nationals waiting on approval for Juan Soto to return from D.C. Department of Health

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Juan Soto could return to the team as soon as Saturday when they’ll work out instead of playing the Miami Marlins, who’ve had a COVID-19 outbreak...

MLB: Spring Training-Baltimore Orioles at Washington Nationals Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Soto needed back-to-back MLB-approved negative tests before he could begin the process of returning to the Washington Nationals’ lineup. And it’s a process apparently.

Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters yesterday that Soto had a second consecutive negative test.

“We did get another result back today, he tested negative, and now we’re waiting for him to be cleared by MLB and the D.C. Department of Health,” the manager explained.

Reporting on Tuesday was that the 21-year-old outfielder was growing frustrated with the process as he waited to get cleared following a positive test on the morning of the club’s opener last Thursday.

In a radio appearance with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this morning, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked if he anticipated Soto would be able to return to the lineup by the time the Nationals play their next games after the current series, when they meet the New York Mets next Tuesday, now that MLB has postponed the planned three-game set with the Marlins in Miami this weekend. Rizzo said he thought it was likely Soto would be back by then.

“I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be,” the GM explained.

“He’s champing at the bit and frustrated that he can’t be with his teammates. And I’m looking forward to seeing him in the lineup, that’s for darn sure.”

Rizzo, confirming what Martinez said, told the Junkies that Soto had consecutive negative tests and was just waiting to be cleared.

“He passed two consecutive tests, so MLB is — the process is you pass the two tests, you go to the board from MLB and the Players Association and they reinstate you to play, so we’re in that process right now.”

As Martinez noted, however, MLB doesn’t have the sole decision-making powers, so the club and Soto were waiting on both MLB and the D.C. Department of Health’s go-ahead.

In his daily pregame press conference this afternoon, the Nationals’ manager confirmed that Soto has been cleared by MLB and is now waiting on the D.C. Department of Health.

“MLB cleared Juan Soto today,” Martinez said in an opening statement. “We are still waiting for clearance from the D.C. Health Department. We’ll hope to have him back August 1st, so he can work out with us on Saturday. That’s all I got, that’s all they gave me.”

As for what is delaying the approval from the D.C. DOH?

“I can’t comment on none of that stuff,” Martinez said. “Like I said, we’re complying with not only MLB, but the D.C. Health Department, and that’s all I can say about it.”

Martinez was also asked about Soto’s mental state as he waits for approval to return.

“He’s hurting right now,” the skipper said. “He wants to be with the guys. He’s just waiting. Trying to get back as soon as possible. I talked to him this morning, he’s a little down.

“I told him, all he can do is hang in there, and we’re doing the best we can to get him back as quick as possible.

“It’s a tough situation, we definitely miss him, can’t wait to get him back.”

It’s even tougher, from Soto’s perspective because, as Martinez said, the whole time he’s been asymptomatic.

“He’s been good. He’s had no symptoms. He feels good. So like I said, for him this is kind of troublesome, because he doesn’t understand, so I just have reiterate to tell him you’ve just got to stay positive through this whole thing. And as soon as we can get you back you’re going to be back.”