“He looked so natural. He made it look fairly easy,” Martinez said of Soto.
The only thing unusual about the play was that Soto was playing right field for the first time in his Major League career, in the nightcap against the Phillies.
He is in the starting lineup again Wednesday in right field, with Michael A. Taylor in center and Andrew Stevenson in left.
Soto has been a mainstay in left field since he was called up from Double-A Harrisburg of the Eastern League in May 2018.
The native of the Dominican Republic played 108 games in the minor leagues, with 107 starts. He has played 300 games in left in the majors.
So could Soto be playing right field more often in the future if the Nats can acquire a left fielder?
“It could be a possibility,” Martinez, with a big smile on Zoom, told reporters. “Use your imagination.”
“He feels comfortable over there,” Martinez added. “We will see what happens in the future. He was all excited about it – want to make it fun for him.”
Soto, in 2018, played right field in 14 games for both Single-A Hagerstown and Potomac before he was called up Double-A Harrisburg – where he played four games in right field. He only played seven games in left field in the minors, and three in center field.
The right field picture could be murky in Spring Training 2021.
Veteran Adam Eaton, acquired in a trade from the White Sox before the 2017 season, is not a lock to return.
Veteran outfielder Taylor is solid in center but he appears to be blocked there by Victor Robles - and Taylor’s penchant for striking out too much.
Robles gained 10 pounds since last season, according to Martinez, who has slumped on offense and defense since helping the team win the World Series.
Stevenson, like Taylor a solid defender, has never hit well enough to be a regular outfielder in the majors. But he is an above-average defender and baserunner and has been on fire at the plate since Friday when he called back up from the alternate site.
Both Taylor and Stevenson possess speed and defense that make them solid fourth and fifth outfielders.
Soto has improved his defense tremendously in left field since his days in the minors. The Nationals might seem to be tempting fate to move one of the game’s best hitters; he is hitting .345 with 12 homers before the series and the season finale with the Phillies.
But Martinez didn’t rule out the team finding another left fielder for 2021 if Soto made the move to right field.