“I talked to him, he said he felt pretty good, he felt like he could play today,” Davey Martinez told reporters before last night’s series opener with the New York Mets in Citi Field.
He was referring, of course, to Juan Soto, who missed all three games in Atlanta, GA’s Truist Park over the weekend after tweaking his right knee while trying to get a secondary lead off of the second base bag in the series finale with Philadelphia in D.C. last Thursday.
“So he went through his routine, he’s going to go out and take batting practice, but he feels pretty good, so he’s in there today.”
Soto, 22, was rolling at the plate before tweaking the knee, with a .352/.500/.704 line, four doubles, seven home runs, 21 walks, and 14 Ks in 22 games and 91 plate appearances after appearing in the All-Star Game and HR Derby for the first time in his career, leaving him at .297/.427/.499 on the year, with 13 doubles, 18 home runs, 79 walks (10 intentional) and 66 Ks in 101 games and 424 plate appearances on the season.
Martinez said he would be keeping a close eye on the Nationals’ star, who was diagnosed with a contusion after a precautionary MRI on the knee over the weekend.
Soto tweaked it on an odd play at second base, when Josh Bell lined one up the middle and it bounced off the bag, turning Soto around as he decided if he should retreat to second or try to advance. He ended up scoring on an error on the play, but limped across the plate as he came in.
“I think it’s going to be more or less I’m going to keep an eye on him if he gets on base, it’s kind of the stop and go,” Martinez said.
“That’s when he felt it, the secondary lead, but he ran better today, so he said he wanted to play. So, like I said, I’ll monitor him, I’ll watch him, and see where he’s at.”
But the manager was genuinely excited to have his right fielder back on the field.
“We missed him the last few days,” he said.
Juan Soto now has 14 opposite-field HR since the start of 2020, 3 more than any other LHB in that span (Kyle Schwarber, 11) pic.twitter.com/0DDDv7LqoM— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) August 10, 2021
“I know he got some pinch hit at bats, but to get him four at bats today is going to be huge.
“He’s a big part of our lineup, especially the middle part of our lineup, so it’s good to see him back in the lineup today.”
And back in the lineup in Citi Field, where Soto started the night with a .382/.460/.776 line, four doubles, and eight home runs in 21 games and 87 PAs in his career.
“He likes playing here, he’s got a lot of family here, I know, so he’s excited to play tonight,” Martinez said.
Soto hit his 9th Citi Field home run and 19th of 2021 in his first at bat back in the Nationals’ lineup, taking an 85 MPH, 1-1 changeup outside from Mets’ starter Carlos Carrasco out 396 feet to left for an opposite field three-run home run.