No Juan Soto Just Yet:
Juan Soto went on the 10-Day IL on April 20th, so he was eligible to come off in time for the start of this weekend’s series with the Miami Marlins in the nation’s capital, but there wasn’t any announcement on his return from the left shoulder strain which landed him on the IL in the lead-up to last night’s game.
Davey Martinez provided an update on the 22-year-old slugger when he spoke to reporters in his pregame Zoom call on Friday afternoon.
Soto hit off a tee previously, as he’s worked his way back, but he hadn’t thrown the ball yet, which was a test he needed to pass before he could return.
“He threw a little bit yesterday,” Martinez informed the D.C. press corps.
“He’s out there right now, going to throw again. He’s feeling a lot better. Like I said, this is something we’re going to watch him progress and hopefully get him through this so that when we get him back there’s no more concerns about his shoulder.
“Believe me, hey, I miss him in that lineup,” he added. “I want him back as soon as possible, but we need to be smart about it.”
If He Never Pitched, Was He Actually Here?:
Davey Martinez was thrilled to get Jon Lester back for his first start of the season last night, after the 37-year-old veteran heading into his 16th big league season was set back first by surgery to remove a parathyroid gland and then by a stint on the COVID-IL. Lester returned to the rotation for the series opener with the Miami Marlins, but in order to make room for him, the Nationals needed to make some roster moves, which they did before the game on Friday afternoon.
The Nationals reinstated Lester from the IL, optioned pitcher Steven Fuentes out, and then transferred lefty Luis Avilán, who recently underwent Tommy John surgery, to the 60-Day IL.
Fuentes, 23, was called up on April 20th to give the Nationals an addition arm in the bullpen when they needed it, but he never got into a game.
“It was tough,” Martinez said of sending the right-hander out before he got an opportunity to make his MLB debut.
“I told him today I wish I would have got him out there to pitch in a game and get his feet wet,” the Nationals’ manager added, “... but his response was that he learned a lot just by being around. He’ll be ready whenever we need him. Now he’s going to go down, we’re sending him down to Rochester, and he’ll go down there and get put right in the rotation down there, so we’ll get him stretched out again and get him ready to go.
“What I do know, I really like him a lot, he’s got a good mix of pitches, so it’s just about getting him down there, getting his work and if we need somebody else he’ll be ready.”
Strasburg Update: We Have To Wait...
Stephen Strasburg went on the 10-Day IL with right shoulder inflammation back on April 18th, so he too is eligible to return when he’s healthy, but Martinez, when asked if there’s any possibility of the righty returning for next week’s series with Atlanta in D.C. was non-committal.
“I can’t really say that right now. He’s progressing well. I came in yesterday because he was going to throw. He threw long, over 200 feet, and he threw the ball fairly well,” Martinez told reporters.
“Hopefully we get him back this weekend on the mound and he’ll throw a light bullpen and if that goes well we’ll see what the progression is from there. But yesterday he threw well, and he threw, like I said, at 200 feet, and watched him throwing the way he did and he said he felt no issues. He felt good.
“The next step will be to get him on the mound in bullpen sessions, so we’ll see how that goes.”
Martinez also provided updates on injured relievers Wander Suero (left oblique strain) and Will Harris (swelling in hand), both of whom are working their way back right now.
“Suero, I watched him throw yesterday,” Martinez said.
“He threw about 90 feet. Today is just a work day for him. He’ll throw again tomorrow and he’ll throw [with] a little bit more intensity tomorrow and then we’ll see how he feels after that.”
“Harris is still just progressing. He’s throwing in games every other day. We just want to see him soon throw back-to-back days and then we’ll go from there.”
Goodbye, Fredericksburg Alt Site:
In discussing what the plan was for Steven Fuentes after he was optioned out, Martinez said that the Alternate Training Site in Fredericksburg, VA was breaking up with the minors set to get up and running this coming week. So, where’s everybody going? That’s undecided thus far...
“Everybody is going to disperse and go to different places,” the manager said. “I know right now — Rochester — trying to figure out who’s going to go to Rochester, who’s going to go to Double-A [Harrisburg]. I know Fuentes, I told him the team is leaving — they’re going to Rochester.
“He’s going to meet them there. As you know they still got to follow protocols, they’ve got to get tested, so they’ll do that tomorrow — I’m pretty sure they’re going to do that tomorrow, so we wanted to get Fuentes there as soon as possible so he could fit right in and not have to miss any games.”
With no minor league season last year, the Nats didn’t have call-ups with COVID protocols, so that process will be a new one for the club to deal with once the minors get going.
“They have to go through intake [testing] again,” he explained, “... and I know that we have these rapid tests now that are readily available for us. Honestly, I don’t really know how it’s going to work, but I think having these rapid tests is going to help out a lot. Especially when we’ve been testing every day, and I think the vaccinations help us out a lot too, guys that are vaccinated, it’s definitely a plus.”
And what becomes of the taxi squad teams have used the last two seasons? Can/will they still use one for future road trips?
“It’s up to the club,” Martinez said. “For me, because Rochester is not that far away right now when we’re playing at home, I want these guys to play. Get some true at bats, face some different teams, and get competitive again. Granted they play — they have these sim games, and everything, but they play the Orioles maybe four times, it’s not the same. I want them to feel that intensity and really start playing games, get four solid at bats a game, pitch to another team, and really get into it and get fired up and get that adrenaline going. So for me it’s about getting these guys ready so when they come up here we know they’ve had a bunch of at bats, they’ve had a bunch of innings, and they’re ready to go.”