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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on rotation plans; Juan Soto to IL + more...

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While you enjoy your off day, catch up on what manager Davey Martinez had to say in his Zoom calls with reporters yesterday...

Juan Soto Not So Happy, Or Is He?:

Washington Nationals’ outfielder Juan Soto ended up on the 10-Day IL after an MRI revealed a strain in his left shoulder. He seemed okay with the situation he found himself in, though it isn’t ideal for the 22-year-old or his team. It wasn’t any one particular play or swing on which he suffered the injury.

“I’ve just been playing baseball, doing my normal routine, and doing the same things. It just started bothering me a little bit and I just got right on it,” Soto said.

He told the team, got an MRI, and landed on the Injured List. As for what he’s doing now?

“Right now, just relax, let it rest,” Soto said. “Rest as much as I can, get some massages and anything to try to pull the swelling down. Mostly it’s just relaxing and rest.”

How’s Soto handling it all? Is he frustrated by the injury? Annoyed he got put on the IL?

“He wasn’t happy,” manager Davey Martinez said. “But yeah, he gets frustrated. The one thing that I know is that yesterday, after we put him on the IL, he was out there cheering for his teammates. And that’s him. He loves the game. He loves being out there, he loves playing, but he also loves his teammates and wants to do everything he can to pull for them. So, that’s one thing that’s frustrating about our protocols is that he won’t be able to travel.

“He’ll have to sit at home and hopefully get ready as soon as possible so we can get him back.”

Not 19-31 Yet; Don’t Want To Go There:

How are the Nationals (6-9) heading into the series finale with St. Louis yesterday (which they won so 7-9), handling all of the adversity, the injuries, the COVID crisis at the start of the season, and the less-than stellar first weeks of the 2021 campaign? Do they ever hope they could just have a normal or at least somewhat routine couple weeks?

“I don’t think we’d be who we are if it wasn’t for all that,” Trea Turner said on Tuesday night in the nation’s capital. “I think we’ve got a lot of fighters in here and we don’t like to make excuses or complain. We kind of roll with the punches. Obviously we would love for it to be smooth and everything to go our way all the time, but that’s not how it is in this game, it’s not how it is in life, and we just got to continue to roll with the punches and keep battling. I always say I think we’ve got good guys in the clubhouse, not just the talent, but we’ve got good guys to embrace these situations, and continue to try to become better players and teammates and coaches.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

“It takes everybody, and it’s just who we are.”

As Juan Soto noted, the Nationals have been here before, and bounced back, so there’s no reason why it can’t happen again.

“We’ve been there,” Soto said, “we’ve been in the bottom of the box and we climbed all the way out, so I think we’re going to be fine. All these veteran players that we have in the clubhouse, all the champions that we have in the clubhouse, they know how to go through this, so we’re just going to help the new guys, try to keep them positive, and try to push together to get out of this.”

“We talk all the time about getting off to a good start, you know,” manager Davey Martinez added, “and then things happen that you can’t control. So you know after every game, and every morning when I wake up that’s the first thing I tell myself, ‘Hey, just control the controllables. We’ve got 26 guys on the roster, do the best you can with those 26 guys.’

“You know what they’re going to do, you know they’re going to give you effort, and that’s all that I can ask from them. And just keep playing baseball. It’s a long season. It’s not like last year where — last year it was imperative that you get off to a good start. We got 162 games.

“Our first 40 games, if you look at our schedule, our first 40 games as we know were going to be tough.

“I just tell myself, ‘Hey, focus on getting through the day and then move on to the next day,’ and that’s all I can think about.

“I worry about the day at hand and hopefully we go 1-0 today, and then we get the day off tomorrow and then we focus on Friday.”

Just An Awwww Moment:

Juan Soto was asked on Wednesday who he turns to when he needs to talk about things in his life maybe not going as he’d like them to go. His answer got us in the feels.

“My mom,” Soto said. “Mom and Dad, they always have the answer to help me out.”

We’re not crying. You’re crying. It’s dusty in here. My contacts are bothered by the pollen.

Split Grip Josh Harrison:

Had you noticed Josh Harrison using what’s described as a split grip at the plate over the last two seasons? One reporter finally asked Martinez about his second baseman’s grip in Wednesday’s pregame presser, and the manager was apparently waiting for someone to notice it.

“I’m surprised it took you guys so long to ask me,” Martinez said.

“Yeah, so it helps get your top hand through the baseball a lot easier. I played with Miguel Cairo who used to do it, Shawon Dunston did it when I played with him with the Cubs, but it keeps your top hand, trying to get above the ball.

“He says he’s so bottom hand dominant that he started doing that split grip and it helps him get on top of the baseball, just because he can split his hands a little bit.”

How long has Harrison been doing it?

“He’s been doing it for a while. I noticed it last year a little bit, it wasn’t so pronounced, this year he’s really a lot wider, but it seems to be working.”

Rotation Notes - Strasburg, Lester + More:

Just some quick pitching notes before we wrap up.

Starters for the weekend series in Citi Field?

Martinez: “It’s going to go — as of right now, it will be [Erick] Fedde on Friday, [Joe] Ross Saturday, [Patrick] Corbin Sunday.”

So Paolo Espino isn’t getting a start in NY? “He’s available out of the bullpen today and then we’ll see what transpires after that,” Martinez said before Wednesday’s game.

Jon Lester continues to build up arm strength after surgery in Spring Training to remove one of four parathyroid glands and then a stint on the COVID-IL. He’s been throwing and wants to get at least one more sim game in down at the Alternate Site in Fredericksburg before thinking about his 2021 debut.

“I spoke to him yesterday,” Martinez said.

“He wants one more, I’d like for him to get one more, and then we’ll reevaluate. So he’ll pitch Sunday and then we’ll reevaluate from there.”

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Game 2 Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

In spite of their struggles in the starting rotation, and the injury to Stephen Strasburg, the off days in the schedule over the next few weeks are allowing the Nationals to take it slow with Lester’s build-up.

But they did think about having him start in the majors next time out with all that’s gone on.

“It was definitely something that we talked about,” Martinez said, “and with all these off days we feel like one more start down there, and try to get him 5+ innings or so, up to 90 pitches will definitely help.”

The skipper had a Strasburg update as well. After landing on the IL with inflammation in his right shoulder, the ‘09 No. 1 overall pick started throwing again.

“He actually threw 75 feet yesterday,” Martinez said.

“He felt okay. So like I said, we’re going to build him back up and hopefully ramp him up. As soon as we can get him back on the mound we’ll get him back on the mound.”

The next step?

“He’ll probably throw some light bullpens at first, and see how that goes. And then he’ll throw a heavy-duty bullpen and then we’ll probably have to get him a sim game or two.”