Juan Soto missed two weeks of Spring Training 2.0, after he came into contact with another person who tested positive for COVID-19, and the first week of the season after his own test for the virus came up positive, though he was asymptomatic, and thinks it was a case of the result being a false positive.
Soto, 21, told reporters after returning to Nationals Park over the weekend, that after all that time off he was going to need to build back up before he started playing games again once the club was doing the same.
The COVID-19 outbreak on the Miami Marlins’ roster led to this past weekend’s three-game series in Marlins Park being postponed, giving Soto and his teammates time to heal up and build-up heading into last night’s game.
“I’m trying to work to see if I can come back by Thursday or Friday,” Soto explained this past Saturday when he spoke to reporters upon returning from a second quarantine period.
“I don’t know, maybe it can be Wednesday, but I’m working to be back by Wednesday.”
Tuesday seemed ambitious, and Soto’s name wasn’t on the lineup card when Nats’ manager Davey Martinez released it in advance of the series opener with the New York Mets in D.C.
“He’ll be available to pinch hit today,” Martinez said. “Just probably want to give him another day or two, so we’ll see. I mean, he’s getting there.
“Just want to make sure that we keep him healthy. We got him back, and we want to keep him healthy.
“He’s going to hit today, he’s going to take some more [fly] balls in the field, run a little bit more today and then we’ll see where he’s at.”
Martinez was asked what he needed to see from Soto to let him know that the outfielder was ready to go. Was the decision to keep Soto out of the lineup last night made by the player or did the manager decide?
“It’s actually a little bit of both,” he explained. “I talked to him last night and he really felt like he probably could use another day or two.
“He said his legs felt a little heavy. His arm was a little sore because he tried to ramp it up.
“We gave him the last four days — he’s probably got about 20 at bats. In that respect, he doesn’t feel that bad.
“I want to make sure like I said that we keep him healthy. We just got him back. He missed a lot of time.
“We want to make sure that when he’s here now that he’s here to help us every day, and that he doesn’t get injured.”
Martinez had to remind his left fielder that things are different this season, and there are options if he doesn’t feel like he can play a full nine in the field right now.”
“I talked to him yesterday for quite a while,” Martinez said, “and I told him too, I said, ‘You’ve got to understand too we do have a DH now, so there’s days where if you need a day off, we can plop you in the DH.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I forgot about that.’
“Even though he doesn’t like it because he loves to play the field. But we may have to DH him some days.”
Will Soto be in the lineup today? Martinez said he was tempted to put Soto in as a pinch hitter in last night’s win, but held back and hopes his outfielder will be ready tonight.
“We thought about it,” Martinez said when asked about potentially using Soto when there were chances to score some runs. “We had the lead. I was trying really hard to stay away from him. We got him loose. We wanted him to get loose just so he was ready but I really wanted to stay away from him. We had the lead, you know. I even thought about it again later on in the game, bases were loaded, where he can go up there and really do some damage for us.
“But we won without him and hopefully I’ll talk to him tonight, and hopefully he’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”