UPDATE: After we wrote the article below, Juan Soto left last night’s matchup with the Miami Marlins with what Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters afterwards was a calf cramp. Soto battled Sixto Sánchez in an 11-pitch at bat before the Nationals’ 22-year-old slugger drew a walk.
At some point in the at bat he apparently did tweak something.
“He had a right calf cramp-age, so we took him out of the game. I didn’t want to take any chances,” Martinez said.
“He had [an 11-pitch at bat,” Martinez continued when asked when the issue came up.
“He said he didn’t feel it until he got to first base, so he thought it went away, but when he came back to the dugout he said it was bothering him, so we took him out.”
Will Soto be back in the lineup tomorrow?
“We’ll reevaluate tomorrow,” Martinez said. “He said he felt fine, but I want to make sure that he gets treatment and then we’ll see him tomorrow.”
And that matchup with Sánchez?
“That was a good one,” Martinez said. “The guy is throwing 100, he’s got a 93 MPH slider, 90 MPH changeup, but I thought it was really good at bat.
“I thought [Soto] was in a good position to hit every swing, and it was a good at bat.
“One of the better ones in Spring Training that’s for sure ... [laughs].”
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While fans in the nation’s capital are panicking about Carter Kieboom’s continued struggles at the plate as the 23-year-old third baseman has put up a .158/.238/.263 line through his 15 games played this spring, 22-year-old right fielder Juan Soto has put up a .182/.270/.182 line over 12 games, in which he’s yet to collect an extra base hit.
Of course, comparing the spring stats of two players, one of whom is coming off a batting title and one of whom has “struggled” in just 44 games and 165 plate appearances in two stints in the major so far is nonsensical. Same goes for putting much stock in anything that goes on in Spring Training.
Kieboom’s struggles have the Nationals considering their options at third base, while still publicly voicing support for the 2016 1st Round pick.
No one is wondering who will play right field on Opening Day.
“From what I see it’s kind of a timing issue,” Soto’s manager, Davey Martinez, told reporters on Thursday, when asked about the outfielder’s lack of hits this spring.
“I think he’s got to get ready a little bit earlier and they talked to him about that, but he’ll be fine, he hit a couple balls hard up the middle.”
Martinez talked early this spring about Soto tracking pitches in his at bats, and the left-hand hitting slugger did foul a ball off his ankle before making his 2021 Grapefruit League debut, but the skipper said Soto’s slow start is more about the outfielder working on things as he’s ramping up for the regular season.
“The thing with him in Spring Training a lot, is that he really wants to establish going the other way a lot, and stay on the ball as long as he can, see the ball deep,” Martinez said.
“Right now he’s seeing the ball deep. Real deep. It’s just a matter of him getting his timing down. Still got a week. And when you watch him take BP, he puts on an unbelievable show, so just taking that into the game and getting himself ready every pitch.
“But that will come, I think that will come here fairly soon for him.
“We all know that he makes adjustments on the fly, which is very unique for a young hitter like him, but he’s able to do it.”
Kevin Long, talking about Soto trying to replicate the numbers he put up in 2020, as he hit his way to the NL Batting title, said earlier this month that Soto’s ability to adjust at the dish is one of the things that sets him apart from the pack.
“There will be some struggles throughout the year and some things that we need to make adjustments with,” Long acknowledged, “but I know that Juan is able to make adjustments and do things at the ripe age that he is better than anybody I’ve ever had.”
Soto was hitless in his last three games heading into Thursday night’s matchup with the Marlins.
MASN’s Mark Zuckerman noted in writing up Martinez’s comments about Soto that it’s an especially rare stretch for the gifted hitter:
“Only three times in his career has he gone hitless in three consecutive games. Only once has he gone hitless in more games than that: a six-game stretch in September 2019 that saw him go 0-for-15 but still draw 12 walks.”
“It’s part of the game,” Martinez said of hitters going through slumps, or mini-slumps, but, he added, “you don’t ever really feel like he’s struggling.
“If all of a sudden he was striking out every at bat I’d be a little concerned, [laughs], but he goes up there and like I said, he works on things, and I know he’s trying see the ball really really deep right now, but like I said, the timing thing will come, he’s taking pitches like he normally does, so I think just getting him a little bit to hit the ball more out front, it’s just a timing thing.”