“It’s nice to see that [Juan] Soto is going to play his first game. He’s doing well. His foot feels good,” Davey Martinez said after the Washington Nationals’ skipper pencilled Soto’s name in as part of the club’s lineup for the first time this spring in the third Grapefruit League game.
Soto sat out of the first game of the year on Sunday, and was supposed to play Monday, but he fouled a ball off his fit in a live batting practice session while the club played on the road, so he missed Monday’s game as well, but after an off day on Tuesday, he got to play for the first time on Wednesday.
“I’ve been asking for the games the whole spring,” Soto said after he went 0 for 2 in what ended up an 8-5 loss to Miami at home in West Palm Beach, in front of a crowd of 1,107.
“Finally I get to get in one and get a couple at bats and get to feel that feeling again, more with the fans. I know it’s not too many, but you can hear them yelling around it.”
“It was good to see him out there. Get him out. I want to get him out and play right field when he does play four or five innings. He said he felt good, which was awesome,” his manager said.
“I know what I’m going to get from him,” Martinez said of the effort Soto brings to the field every day.
“He hits a fly ball the first at bat, and if you watched him, he puts his head down and makes a good turn at first base and gets halfway down to second. I love that. Even though it’s just a fly ball. But his first game, he goes out there and he’s hustling like that, only tells me what we have Juan Soto, that he loves the game and he loves to play it right.”
“It feels [good],” Soto said of the move to a new corner spot after he played predominantly in left field in his first three big league seasons before moving to right briefly at the end of the 2020 campaign.
So, a reporter was called on today and only silence followed. This was Soto's reaction. He has a terrible time every day. pic.twitter.com/v8jBIkAmOs— Todd Dybas (@Todd_Dybas) March 3, 2021
“I was seeing the ball well out there. Try to find out the way — it looks a little farther from right field and left field, but I think I’m going to get used to it, but it feels really good.”
Soto’s foot also feels good after he fouled that ball off it this past weekend.
“It feels really good. It feels really good. It feels almost normal. Running around the bases, running in the field, it feels well, so I think I’m fine.”
The Nationals’ 22-year-old outfielder was also excited to hit second in the lineup, as he did, with Victor Robles leading off, and Trea Turner third for the matchup with the Marlins.
“I’ve said it before, I don’t mind wherever I’m hitting,” Soto told reporters.
“He got me by surprise today, because we haven’t talked about it, so I asked them and they said I’m going to start hitting second, and they’ll see where they’re going to find a play, so I think second is going to be good.
“Whenever I’m in the lineup I’m going to try to do my best.”
Soto also talked about getting to know new teammates this spring, like Josh Bell, who hit in the clean-up spot behind Turner on Wednesday and went 1 for 2 with a home run.
“I think he’s going to be a really good piece on the team,” Soto said of the first baseman the Nationals acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates this winter.
“I’ve been talking with him around and everything. He’s a really nice dude, and he likes to work. He likes to work hard and be on the field grinding.
“I think it’s going to be good to have a guy like that who comes every day to work and gives his 100%. I think he’s going to be a good piece for the team.”
Bell and Kyle Schwarber should also provide some protection for Soto and provide some pop in the middle of the lineup, which has the Nationals’ right fielder excited.
If opposing teams still want to walk him, he said, go ahead.
“I say it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a fun year with all these guys in here I think I get a little protection by them. They’re going to be out there. If they want to walk me now, they can walk me, I won’t worry about it, because I know I have really good teammates behind me.
“They’re going to get their job done, but at the end of the day I don’t care if they walk me or not, I’m going to keep trying to do my best up there.”