Going into last night’s series opener with the San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals’ No. 2 hitter, Juan Soto, had, “...reached base safely in 11 of his last 14 games and in 17 of 21 games this season,” and he extended that to 12 of his last 15, and 18 of 22 on-base after an absolute blast of a home run in his first trip to the plate.
Soto’s now started in each of the Nats’ first 22 games, after playing in 151 of 162 in 2021, 47 of 60 in 2020’s COVID campaign, 150 of 162 in 2019’s World Series championship season, and 116 games in ‘18, his rookie season, when he appeared in all but two of the games the team played after he got called up in mid-May.
So, does he ever need a day? Does his manager ever consider sitting him, just to let him catch his breath, or reset when he struggles like he did on the last homestand, or is it an absolute certainty Soto is going to be in the lineup just about every day if he’s healthy?
“He wants to play,” Martinez said. “I talk to him all the time. I have this thing with him when he needs a day off, he needs to come tell me, and we’ll get him a day off. I tell him, I said, ‘Hey, we get it. Sometimes you need that day,’ but I ask him, ‘How you doing? How are you feeling?’ And he says, ‘Hey, good to go today, I feel good.’ So, when that day comes where you don’t see him in the lineup it’s because we’ve had a conversation and he needs a day.”
Those days are few and far between in his first five big league seasons.
“But he loves going out there, he loves grinding at-bats, as you know he’s pitch-to-pitch,” Martinez continued, “and even through his struggles for me, it’s fun to watch him. I want him to be successful, but I’m watching him, I’m watching every move he makes, and just so that I know that when his struggles do come, and when he’s good, that I can say, ‘Hey, look, this is what I see, this is what,’ and we’ll talk about it. And he’s very receptive to what we have to tell him.”
Just not to telling him he needs a day off. But if he has to, Martinez said, he’ll make the call to give his 23-year-old slugger a break.
“There’s been — there’s days where I’ll say, ‘Hey, look, I really believe you need a day,’ and we’ll talk about it, he’ll fight me on it, but if I deem that he needs a day we’ll get him a day, yeah.”
Today is not one of those days, not after the game Soto had last night (2 for 5, HR, BB, RBI single).