“If you looked away and looked real quick you would think it’s Juan Soto hitting,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez joked, when he was asked about 20-year-old infielder Luis García’s left-handed swing looking an awful lot like Soto’s.
As more people have gotten a look at García on a regular basis, after he debuted in the big leagues last weekend, they’ve noticed that his two-strike approach is similar to Soto’s too.
It’s ... not a coincidence.
“I see Juan do it, I say, maybe I’ll do it like that,” García told reporters on Monday night in Atlanta, when he, like Soto early in his time in the majors, conducted his post game with D.C. writers in English so he can keep working on it.
“I asked him in 2017, what pitch he looks [for] when he goes to a two-strike approach,” the rookie explained, “... and [Soto] said, ‘I look for fastball outside, every day,’ and I said: ‘OK, I’ll do it like you.’
“I look for a fastball too, outside, and the result for now is good. I do that every day.”
His manager thinks he’s gotten the choked-up, Soto-esque spread stance, and approach with two strikes down pretty good.
“He’s — they’re actually pretty close,” Martinez laughed.
“They talk a lot off the field, they hang out together. It’s kind of nice that you see a young player mentoring really another young player. And him just trying to do the right thing. I think Luis is just trying to do the right things.
“He’s a smart kid. and he’s learning, he wants to learn. But he’s — you know, he couldn’t pick a better guy to mimic in Soto. So, but he does well, he’s going to do fine, and as long as he keeps learning and keeps processing things, he’s going to be great.”
While there are clearly things he can learn from Soto, Martinez said he does ultimately want the young second baseman to be himself.
“Definitely. I talk to him all the time about just creating his own identity and just him being him,” the third-year skipper said. “Don’t try to do too much, I always tell him, ‘You’re a gap-to-gap hitter. You’re going to run into a baseball and you’ll hit one out,’ I said, ‘But don’t — just forget about it and stay to what you do best, and that’s going from left-center to right-center and playing good defense.”
Soto has been impressed with what he’s seen from García so far, though he joked that the 20-year-old kid makes him feel old. (Soto’s a wise old 21).
“It’s been amazing,” Soto said of García’s rise earlier this week.
“You see a guy like that come through, I saw him [when] we played rookie ball. I played a little bit with him in rookie ball. I was hurt and I was down there, and I saw how good he was, and how good he is right now.
“It’s amazing to see a guy growing up and come up here and try to do the best, and it just feels really good.
“Now I feel a little old. I don’t know if I am. But it feels good.”
As García prepared for his MLB debut in Baltimore this past weekend, he spent time with both Soto and Victor Robles, who weren’t buying the younger Dominican player’s claims that he wasn’t really nervous going into his first game with the Nationals.
“They basically were asking me if I was nervous at all,” García recalled. “And I was telling them to be honest I’m really not that nervous and they were saying, ‘Oh, you’re just lying, you’ve got to be nervous to be out here with these big leaguers.’ But they kept telling me, you know, just remember it’s the same game as down in the minor leagues, and the only difference it there are big league ballplayers and a big league ball field, but relax, enjoy yourself, have fun and enjoy this moment.”
García went 2 for 5 with a double in his first major league game, then homered for the first time in the series opener in Atlanta on Monday night.
“It was awesome,” Martinez said of García’s first HR. “Hit his first one, big smile on his face, the boys were actually curious to see what kind of dancer he was.
“He did alright, he did alright. The kid’s a player. He loves to play the game. He goes up there and he battles, works good at bats.”
“I told him, I said, ‘Hey, don’t let it go to your head. Remember who you are, stay in the middle of the field, and like I said, he came up and he hit a line drive to third base.
“That tells me a lot about him. He’s going to have a lot of success in this league.”
García went 3 for 3 with three singles the three times up on Tuesday night as well, and ended the night 3 for 4 with a run scored and a walk.