Nats still trying to get Robles back to 2019 form



Age on opening day 2023: 25

How acquired: Signed as international free agent, July 2013

MLB service time: 4 years, 33 days

2022 salary: $1.65 million

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With Cruz close to returning, Nats face decision at designated hitter


ATLANTA - Lined with wooden lockers and topped by fluorescent bulbs, the visitor’s clubhouse at Truist Park isn’t the most well-lit room. It’s even darker from behind Nelson Cruz’s sunglasses.

The 42-year-old has donned the shades as he deals with a lefty eye infection that has kept him out of action since Sept. 13. But the specs could be coming off soon.

“He’s better,” said manager Davey Martinez. “The drops are working. It’s very slow but he said he feels better today.”

“It’s good news, so hopefully we can get him back here in a few days.”

Cruz took batting practice with the team before Monday’s series opener, another step towards a return that appears imminent.

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Soto hopes one big swing flushed away bad vibes from week

Soto homer white

His week began with a freak injury after he slipped in the dugout and banged his knee on the corner of the Nationals bench, sidelining him two days. When he returned, he went 0-for-14 and saw his batting average dip to an unfathomable .216. Along the way, his manager criticized him for not hustling out a double-play grounder.

So when Juan Soto took a mighty swing at the first pitch he saw from Zach Eflin in the bottom of the second Sunday afternoon and proceeded to watch the ball fly 420 feet into the second deck in right field at Nationals Park for a three-run homer, what exactly did it feel like?

“It’s like a flush,” the slugger said. “It’s like you flush your mind, your body, everything. You just feel amazing. Your work is coming through, and you just feel amazing when you see the ball flying like that.”

It was as cathartic a moment as Soto has had on a baseball field in a while. It may or may not have signaled a turning point in his disappointing season – he still wound up 1-for-5 in the Nats’ 8-3 victory over the Phillies – but it certainly energized the 23-year-old and his teammates, who have desperately needed that kind of production from their young leader.

“We need Juan to be Juan,” said Maikel Franco, who also homered during the game. “I know it’s going to come. Everybody gets excited. After that, everybody (got) excited, and they wanted to just continue to play hard and have great at-bats and do well for the team.”

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Sanchez DFA was prompted by need to clear 40-man spot

Aaron Sanchez exits gray

Saturday night’s decision to designate struggling right-hander Aaron Sanchez for assignment was prompted by the Nationals’ need to clear a 40-man roster spot in order to account for the fill-in starter they’ll need Wednesday in New York.

Manager Davey Martinez said the club will have someone not currently in the rotation start Wednesday’s series finale against the Mets, an outing that became necessary due to Friday night’s rainout and Saturday’s subsequent day-night doubleheader against the Rockies.

Martinez insisted the decision hasn’t been made yet and likely won’t until Tuesday, but acknowledged it played a role in Saturday night’s DFA decision with Sanchez.

“We felt like we’re going to need a spot here next week,” the manager said prior to today’s series finale against Colorado. “We felt like right now was a good time to start thinking about what we’re going to do for Wednesday. I can tell you right now, we have a lot of different options and things we’re thinking about. We won’t have a decision until probably Tuesday.”

The schedule does limit the team’s options to some extent. The organization’s top two pitching prospects, Cade Cavalli and Cole Henry, each had dominant starts Saturday night, with Cavalli tossing seven scoreless innings for Triple-A Rochester and Henry pitching four perfect innings for Double-A Harrisburg. Neither would be ready to come back and pitch Wednesday, though, removing them from the equation for now.

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