He received nice ovation from the home crowd in Nationals Park, who missed their 22-year-old star while he was out dealing with a left shoulder strain that affected him when he threw the ball, though not while he was swinging. Soto was just happy to be back up at the plate.
“I feel really good, didn’t know that crowd was going to get me so pumped, that they’re going to get so happy,” he said in a post game Zoom call.
“I didn’t know about it, I just got really excited and started laughing about myself. My heart is going a little bit quicker, but it feels really nice to be out there again and hear those guys yelling at me.”
For now, manager Davey Martinez said before the series opener with the Braves, Soto will be coming off the bench, as they continue to test the shoulder and get the right fielder to throw to the bases like he would in a game.
“Right now, just we can throw, being smart at the beginning,” Soto said, “... see how it feels whenever I start throwing to the bases and all that kind of stuff.”
Soto also noted that there’s an opportunity in the next series, with the Nationals traveling to New York to take on the Yankees this weekend, for him to serve as the DH as he works back into the lineup. Until then, he said, he’ll continue to build strength and test the shoulder.
“We’re waiting. We’re going day by day with the throwing and everything. We throw 120 feet today,” he said.
“Tomorrow we will see how far we can go. And then we got to take a couple days to see how my arms responds after I throw long-toss and that kind of stuff. And whenever I start throwing long-toss and see how my arm is the next day, we take the decision on when we can play in the field.”
Soto (and his manager) were just happy that he was available in some way after he spent two weeks watching his teammates.
“It was kind of tough for me,” Soto acknowledge.
“I know I can swing the bat, it doesn’t feel that bad swinging the bat, and we don’t have any DH that I can help my team, but it was really tough to see all those games from home.
“It feels the same like quarantine last year. But I really tried to keep mentally really strong, and just cheer for them and they had really good series through all these days, and I’m happy for that and happy to join the team when they’re going really well. So, I’m just here.”
How long will Martinez and the Nationals be able to hold him out of the starting lineup? At least one more day it appears...
HERE’S THE NATS’ LINEUP FOR THE 2ND OF 3 WITH THE BRAVES IN D.C.
NOTES: Martinez talked before today’s game, about Soto coming off the bench once again as the Nationals go up against Braves’ lefty Max Fried.
“He’s going to be off the bench. Once again, Fried’s pitching, who’s a lefty. We got a lot of righties in there. So the only difference [from last night], we’ve got [Jordy] Mercer playing second base, [Josh] Harrison will play right field. [Kyle] Schwarber is in left field today, so he’s the only lefty in there.”