Juan Soto Returns To Field:
In his second trip to the plate after two games off with a left calf tweak, Juan Soto looked at how the Philadelphia Phillies’ defense was aligned, shifted to the right side on the Nationals’ 23-year-old slugger, and squared to bunt, sending one foul of third base, before he went on to single for Washington’s first hit with one out in the top of the fourth inning on Wednesday night in Citizens Bank Park.
Soto was back in the lineup as the DH, with manager Davey Martinez working him back into the mix cautiously, so seeing Soto try to get a bunt down early in his first game back wasn’t exactly what the fifth-year skipper wanted to see.
“I didn’t like it. I’m not going to lie,” Martinez told reporters, before the third of three in the City of Brotherly Love on Thursday. “I want him to swing the bat, but he sees the game for what it is, and he thought just him getting on base with Josh [Bell] swinging the bat so well, he could just get on there, but I’d rather him, especially with the way his leg is feeling, take a crack on hitting the ball off the wall or something like that.”
Martinez said he watched Soto closely throughout his return to the lineup, but players, he said, have to fully commit once they decide they’re ready to get back at it, as Soto did for the series finale with the Phillies, when he returned to right field.
“You let them play,” the manger explained. “The thing for me is if you — once you deem that you’re good to play, just play the game, don’t try to do anything different, because for me that’s how you create injuries, so I let him go out there and play and at the end of the game we’ll talk to him and see how he is and go from there. You never want, as much as you try to tell him, ‘Hey look, if hit a ground ball and the guy catches it, just kind of take it easy,’ these guys play the game, and they play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, so he’s going out there playing the game. Like I said, yesterday he slid into second base, he didn’t think anything about it. He’s just trying to play the game, so he’s going to go out there and play the way he sees fit.”
Soto started Thursday’s game with a nine-game hit streak going, over which he was 11 for 29 (.379/.561/.621) with four doubles, a home run, 12 walks, and six Ks in 41 PAs over that stretch, and he had “... reached base safely in 16 straight games, posting a .484 on-base percentage (13 H, 17 BB) along the way,” as the Nationals highlighted in the pregame notes for yesterday’s matchup.
[ed. note - “Soto extended his hit streak to 10-straight in the loss on Thursday, with the first of his two hits on a 2 for 4 days at the plate.”]
Martinez was happy to have him back in right, with Nelson Cruz, who sat with a stomach bug in the first games, back to DHing.
“[Soto] said this morning, I talked to him this morning,” Martinez said, ‘he said he felt good, so he’s going to play right field today, and like I said, we’ll keep an eye on him. He ran the bases, he slid yesterday, he came out of feeling pretty good, so he’s good to play today.”
Rogers Gives Up Homers:
Josh Rogers went on the IL on June 3rd with a left shoulder impingement, and in his third start on his rehab assignment on Wednesday night, the 27-year-old southpaw got knocked about a bit, surrendering eight hits, three of them homers, and six runs total in four innings on the mound for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators.
Rogers put up a 5.13 ERA, a 6.41 FIP, 11 walks, 12 Ks, and six homers in 16 games, three starts, and 26 1⁄3 IP for the Nationals before the injury.
What reports did Davey Martinez get on the left-hander’s outing for the Sens?
“He gave up a couple home runs,” Martinez said. “We just got to continue to build him up. That’s what we’re going to do right now with him. But he said overall he came out feeling pretty good. Now it’s about just getting him built up, and getting him strong, getting him in on his legs. So, we’ll talk to him, we’ll see how he feels today, but we’ll continue to build him up.”
Aníbal Sánchez is three starts into his own rehab assignment, and he’s set to make a fourth Martinez said on Thursday, with Triple-A Rochester.
“He’s going to go pitch. I think the team is in Lehigh Valley, he’s going to go pitch there, and then we’ll see how he comes out of it. Hopefully we get him up to 5/75.”
Davey Martinez sent Joan Adon down to Triple-A in early June with a detailed plan on what the club thought the 23-year-old starter needed to work on after an up-and-down run over the first two-plus months in the Nationals’ rotation.
“He’s going to go down there [to Rochester],” Martinez told reporters. “We wanted to send him down yesterday so he can fit in the rotation every five days down there, and then work on his changeup, work on throwing his fastball and location, work on his breaking ball and throwing it for strikes, throw strike one.”
“His stuff is electric,” the manager added. “He’s just got to learn how to use it, and use it effectively.
Martinez’s reports from Triple-A said Adon did work his changeup into the mix more in just two outings he had, around a return the majors to start in a doubleheader, and a brief period of rest as part of the organizational trend of resting young arms so they can pitch through a full season, but he wanted to see Adon focus on throwing strikes before he got to working in his secondary stuff.
“As I always say, with some of these young guys, for me, you need to establish the strike zone first,” he explained, “whatever pitch that would be. Use that. Establish the strike zone, get ahead. He’s got a really good fastball, as we all know, but you got to work ahead here, and then after that you can use your secondary pitches. But he really has to get ahead in counts, and work ahead, and like I said, we’ll watch the high-leverage situations if we get there, and see what he’s doing.
“For me, it’s for him to control his high-leverage situations. I know Tres [Barrera] caught him the last time he was down there [at Triple-A], and Tres said he threw the ball well, he threw some really good changeups, so he’s going to catch him today.”
But establishing the fastball in the zone first, Martinez reiterated, is where it all begins.
“I talked to Tres earlier today about, ‘Hey, get him in the strike zone, he’s got to get ahead, get ahead of hitters, and then after that — but he’s got to get ahead, get ahead of hitters ... but he’s got to use his fastball, get ahead with his fastball, and then we’ll go from there.”
It didn’t go so well for Adon, who gave up six hits, three walks, and four runs in four innings in a 5-3 loss.
The walks hurt, Martinez said, and then, “he couldn’t command the strike zone, he got behind hitters, but he’s got great stuff, we just got to continue to work with him on his command and utilizing all his pitches and getting him around the strike zone.”