Martinez on Soto, García, Cabrera, Scherzer, Difo and more (updated)

Manager Davey Martinez did not have a definitive answer during his pregame media access today as to when left fielder Juan Soto will return to the Nationals lineup. Soto has been dealing with a sore elbow and has missed a couple of games.

"He's going to come in, he's going to do some activation stuff," Martinez said during his Zoom video session with reporters. "We will see how he feels."

Second baseman Luis García was pulled in the middle of Sunday's game at Atlanta because of heel soreness. Martinez believes García will be able to get back into the lineup tonight.

"He's feeling better," Martinez said. "He's going to go out and hit and run around a little bit. So we will see how he is feeling. As of right now, he's penciled in the lineup. If things change, obviously we will let you guys know. He says he feels a lot better."

Thumbnail image for Soto-High-Fives-Cabrera-White-Sidebar.jpgThird baseman Asdrúbal Cabrera was the designated hitter yesterday, going 1-for-4 with an RBI single, but also two strikeouts. The veteran infielder has hit just .158 in his last 15 games. Martinez says he will give Cabrera a day of rest today.

"He's had a little back stiffness," Martinez said. "He's had it for a few days, so he is out today. He will be available to pinch-hit later on in the game. He's been playing a lot. Right-handed, he's been swinging the bat really well, getting his hits. Left-handed, honestly, he's been hitting the ball hard. He's had some hard line drives, has nothing to show for it.

"It was good to see him yesterday hit the ball to left-center field even though it was on the ground, but he beat the shift. When he starts hitting the ball like that, I know he is staying on the ball. It was nice to see him drive in a run."

Right-hander Max Scherzer gets the call again today as the Nats try to get something going with the season winding down. Martinez said Scherzer always give his club a chance at winning but the Nats are hoping their ace can be more efficient each inning so he can go deeper into games.

"Max gives us a chance to win every time he goes out there," Martinez said. "That's the one thing with Max - every five days we have an opportunity to win a game. Of course, we'd like to see him go deeper in a game. I think a lot of it has been his pitch count; it's been relatively high every outing early. For me, I'd like to see him go deeper in the game, limit his pitch count less than 100 pitches today. He's going to go out there and compete and that's all I ask Max to do. He keeps us in the ball game. We always have a chance to win when he is out there."

Infielder Wilmer Difo cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to the alternate training site in Fredericksburg. Martinez is happy the Nats still have Difo as he has the tools to be an important depth piece for the team.

"I think it is really good," Martinez said. "If he were to be picked up by another team and was going to get a chance to play, I would have been happy for him. But now that he is back, I am happy for us. In the little time he gets a chance to play, he does well. He plays well in the field, plays multiple positions, switch-hitter. It's nice to know he is their available if something happens we can bring him back."

Right-hander Kyle McGowin has demonstrated an ability to use his slider to get outs and has done a nice job in his return to the Nats. Primarily a starter in the minor leagues, Martinez envisions McGowin with a different role in the big leagues for right now. In the minors, McGowin started 126 of his 134 games with the Angels and Nats organizations since 2013.

"He's been pretty much throwing out of the bullpen, but with some length," Martinez said. "We want to make him a long reliever. If we need him for 40-45 pitches, he should be good. We talk to him about what makes him good and a testament to him, he went to Fredericksburg and worked on it, got very consistent on throwing the sliders.

"He's got two, three different speeds on his sliders and he also started throwing a better fastball from that. I'm really loved what I saw the other day in Atlanta so hopefully he can continue to do that."

Update: The Nats have placed right-hander Dakota Bacus on the injured list with a right flexor strain and recalled right-hander James Bourque from the alternate training site.

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