We’re back with another edition of our Spring Training notes and quotes for the Washington Nationals, where we share some news that likely won’t end up in a separate story. It’s a nice, quick way to keep you up to date on all things Nationals, without boring you with all of that annoying context. [ed. note - “Again, he puts context in below. No idea why he’s trying that cool guy, context is stupid thing.”] But really, we’ll probably include some context for some stuff. [ed. note - “Should have read ahead, I guess.”] We’ll see. [ed. note - “C’mon now.”] Read along to find out. Here are some of the highlights from manager Davey Martinez’s pregame Zoom call with reporters yesterday...
Soto Sits Again, Why?:
Juan Soto was initially penciled into Thursday’s lineup for the Nats’ Grapefruit League game with the Miami Marlins, batting second and playing right, but 22 minutes after the original lineup was posted on Twitter, the club sent out an updated one with Soto’s name noticeably absent.
What happened? Soto has been sick the last few days...
“I just decided not to play him, just to give him a camp day. He’s been sick for a couple days. I just want to make sure he’s okay,” Martinez said, updating reporters on what he’d said on Wednesday about Soto apparently dealing with a non-COVID illness.
“We want to get some fluids in him today, and let him go through is routine, and then see how he feels and get him back in there,” the manager continued.
“It was just me being cautious. It’s still early. He said he feels fine, but he wanted to play today, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought I just need to be smart about it.
But was Soto at the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches?
“He got — I think a little bit of a sinus thing going on. So he tested, everything came back negative, so he’s going to work out today and then we’ll see how he feels.”
Rainey Continues Building:
Tanner Rainey is coming along slowly, after he experienced pain near the collar bone area early this spring, but he’s now back throwing again and Martinez updated reporters on the progress the reliever has made in recent days.
“He’s throwing today,” Martinez said on Thursday morning.
“So he’ll be right around the 30-pitch mark again and we’ll see how it goes. He looked good the first time he threw, so hopefully everything goes well. He feels good.”
The manager declined to offer a guesstimate as to when we might see Rainey in Grapefruit League action again.
“I’m not going to put a timeline on it. My big concern now is that he wants to throw with a little more intensity today, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Regulars in the lineup?:
You may have noticed a number of the expected everyday regular in the lineup more, uh, regularly, this spring, and Martinez said there’s a reason he’s running them out there.
“For me it’s just getting these guys all playing together,” he explained. “We added a bunch of new guys, want to see what our lineup looks like, and these guys, like I said earlier, I challenged these guys to come to Spring Training in shape and not trying to get in shape.
“The reason being that I want to do a lot more baseball stuff. And these guys, to their [credit], they all came in shape so they’re able to go out there and play every day, or every other day.”
They’re playing together and getting better acquainted with each others’ games, and the manager likes what he’s seen.
“It’s been good, it’s been great. And you can see it, like I’m watching the games and they look good.
“They’re having good crisp at bats, taking their walks, defense is playing better, our pitchers are starting to hone in and you’re starting to see them throwing strikes.
“It’s been really good, but I just give these guys a lot of credit for coming out and being ready from Day 1 in Spring Training so we’re able to push them a little bit.”
Antuna Impressing this spring:
Signed as an amateur free agent in 2016, to a $3.85M signing bonus, 21-year-old infielder Yasel Antuna has played in five games so far this spring, and made a strong impression.
Martinez talked about the infielder, and the progress he’s seen from him in camp.
“We’re going to keep developing him,” the manager said, of the infielder who played at Low-A Hagerstown in 2018 before he had to undergo Tommy John surgery.
“Right now he’s playing shortstop. He’s so young, he missed some time do to injuries, but he’s going to play. He’s got to play. I like him. Big physical kid that plays. He can switch hit.
“Very athletic, but he’s just got to continue to play some games. But he’s got some good baseball skills.
“He’s one of our top prospects, as you guys know, but we like what we see so far. It’s just about developing.
Antuna returned from surgery to play a few games in 2019, and he spent the summer over in Fredericksburg, VA as part of the Nationals’ 60-man player pool in 2020, but that didn’t quite match what he would have learned in a full minor league season.
“They didn’t have that in-game experience that they would get in the minor leagues,” the skipper said on Thursday.
“Hopefully the minor leagues will start up soon, they’ll start playing some games against other teams, and we’ll get them going.”
What does he like about Antuna so far this spring? How about a scouting report?
“He’s a switch hitter. He hits the ball well from both sides. He drives the ball. I’m not going to say he’s a home run hitter, but that could develop,” Martinez said.
“He’s a gap to gap guy. And what we like is his athleticism. He can do a lot of things. He runs well. He’s going to fill out. Like I said, he’s a young kid, so we like everything about him. He’s just developing. But for his age, he’s pretty mature. He understands the game and what he wants to do, so he’s been working diligently to get better over at shortstop.”