Soto not in lineup for second straight game

The Nationals have already had a rough start to the week with Stephen Strasburg’s injury news, a worn out bullpen and three straight losses at home, including the first two games of this three-game set against the Braves. The last thing they need is for their best player to miss time due to a freak injury in the dugout.

But that’s exactly what they have as Juan Soto is not in the starting lineup for the second straight game after slipping in the dugout and banging his right knee on the corner of a bench in the eighth inning of Monday night’s game.

Soto was seen in the Nationals clubhouse before batting practice walking around with a slight limp in his step. He was going to test it out in the cage before making a decision on whether or not he would play, even though he told manager Davey Martinez he’s feeling better.

“He says he feels better, but we'll see,” Martinez said during his pregame session with the media before a starting lineup was announced.

What do the Nationals want to see Soto do before putting him back in the field?

“Everything. He's got to run. He's got hit,” Martinez said. “I want to make sure he's OK. So, hopefully he's good to go. But we'll see.”

He may be doing better, but apparently it’s not good enough for Martinez to feel comfortable putting his star right fielder in the lineup. Obviously, the Nationals will take an abundance of caution with Soto.

“Honestly right now, it's where he got hit,” the skipper said. “I mean, he got hit right on the patellar tendon, which is pretty sore. Yesterday, he said he felt better, but was still sore. So we'll see how he feels today. He says he feels better. So he's gonna go through all his routine and see where he comes out. For me, if it's still bothering him, I would rather not start him and have him be able to come off the bench if we need him, than as opposed to him going out there and he gets really sore and we have to take him out. So that's kind of where we're at right now and what we're contemplating. But I'm gonna have a good conversation right after.”

On what aspects of the game could affect Soto the most, Martinez said: “I think because the way he hurt himself was banging it, sliding and all that stuff might affect him a little bit.”

Lane Thomas is in right field for the second straight game while Victor Robles mans center and Yadiel Hernandez is in left. Is there a reason why Thomas gets right field responsibilities while Soto is on the bench?

“Yeah, because he's done it. He's comfortable doing it,” Martinez said. “He's got the better arm, honestly, for right field. We tried Yadi over there in spring training. Yadi feels more comfortable playing left field.”

* The Nationals are still figuring out how they are going to handle Friday’s doubleheader against the Phillies from a starting pitching standpoint. They know Erick Fedde starts tonight and Patrick Corbin starts Thursday. They also officially decided to start Josiah Gray on Saturday instead of in one of Friday’s games, giving the young right-hander some extra rest while they can.

“I honestly think, after talking with (pitching coach Jim) Hickey and talking with him a little bit about just almost like bumping him a start and giving him a little break,” Martinez said of Gray. “Like I said, this guy's done well for us. So I told Hickey I think maybe we should just have him skip a start and just get on regular rest, regular routine, throw a bullpen again. And then I'll get him ready for Saturday.”

They are hoping Evan Lee and Paolo Espino, who combined to cover six innings on Sunday, will be available to start Friday’s games. But Martinez wants to see how these next two games shake out before making any announcement.

“We'll see how these next two days go,” Martinez said. “Yeah, I mean, the guys in the bullpen are throwing as we speak. I want to see how those guys are doing. But right now, I think Evan and Espino are both available in the bullpen if we need them. We won't use them for length-length, if we don't have to, but two viable arms if they need to pitch.”

Jackson Tetreault is listed as Sunday’s starter for his second major league start.

* Aníbal Sánchez (cervical nerve impingement), Josh Rogers (left shoulder impingement) and Alcides Escobar (right hamstring strain) are leaving D.C. to take the next steps in their respective rehabs.

Sánchez and Rogers are on their way to the Nationals’ complex in West Palm Beach where they’ll throw in game-like situations and a couple of more bullpens. Sánchez threw 50 pitches in his latest bullpen sessions and Rogers threw 20.

After some time in Florida, both pitchers will head out to start rehab assignments with minor league affiliates.

“He's going to Florida,” Martinez said of Sánchez. “And he's gonna go there, throw some live BPs, maybe pitch in a game or two and then if everything goes well, he'll go out on a rehab assignment and get him going. Josh Rogers is going to follow and do the same thing. He threw a 20-pitch bullpen, he felt good. So we're gonna get him out and leave to go to Florida as well and kind of almost be on the same program. Get him built up a little bit and then we'll see where he's at. But he'll probably do the same thing. We’ll send him to Rochester or Harrisburg, we don't know yet. But they'll both go out.”

The Nationals need length out of some of their pitchers, so Rogers will get stretched out during his rehab. Although Martinez won’t commit to the lefty starting, he is hoping to get Rogers up to 60 pitches.

Escobar is starting his rehab assignment tonight with Triple-A Rochester, where he’ll play shortstop and bat second. Martinez said they want the veteran infielder to play all over the field because when he’s ready to rejoin the Nationals, Luis García will continue to play shortstop with Escobar playing more of a super utility role.

“He's supposed to be there to play tonight in Scranton, that's where Rochester is playing,” Martinez said of Escobar. “So he'll start a rehab assignment tonight and then we'll see where he's at. So it'll be nice to get these guys back, especially Josh and Anibal. It'll be really nice. So hopefully everything goes well for them and we can get them back here as soon as possible.”

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