Nationals manager Davey Martinez opened his pregame video call with the announcement that Juan Soto has been cleared to return to play by Major League Baseball. Martinez confirmed the outfielder has had two negative lab tests in a row for COVID-19. But now there is still one more hurdle before the Nats can get him back to playing baseball.
“We’re still waiting for clearance from the D.C. Health Department,” Martinez said. “We hope to have him back Aug. 1, so he could work out with us Saturday. That’s all I got. That’s all they gave me.”
The Nats play two more games against the Blue Jays this week, but then do not have another scheduled game until next Tuesday, when they play the Mets at home. Martinez said Soto has been staying home since July 23 and admits to getting a bit stir crazy and anxious for a return to playing baseball.
“He’s hurting right now,” said Martinez. “He wants to be with the guys. He’s just waiting, trying to get back as soon as possible. I talked to him this morning. He’s a little down. I told him: All he can do is hang in there, and we’re doing the best we can to get him back here as quick as possible. We’re in a tough situation. We definitely miss him. We can’t wait to get him back.”
Martinez also confirmed that Soto is not sick and has shown no effects from the coronavirus since the positive test.
“Yeah, he’s been good,” the skipper said. “He’s had no symptoms. He feels good. For him, this is kind of troublesome, because he doesn’t understand. I just have to reiterate to him, you’ve just got to stay positive through this whole thing. And as soon as we can get you back, you’ll be back.”
Martinez confirmed that Erick Fedde will take Stephen Strasburg’s turn in the rotation again tomorrow afternoon in the series finale against the Blue Jays. He broke down the timeline for Strasburg, who is on the shelf as he mends from a right wrist injury.
“With Stephen, he’s day-to-day,” Martinez said. “He felt good yesterday. He’s going to throw again today. He’s got very minimal pain, if not any pain, in his thumb now. Hopefully, we get through this and he can pitch and help us win ballgames.
“But we want to make sure this doesn’t become an issue or problem somewhere else. We want to make sure the mechanics are right, that he’s throwing the ball properly and that he’s able to go out there and do what he’s capable of doing.”
Strasburg is planning on throwing from 75 to 80 feet today on flat ground. Martinez said the team is going slowly before allowing the right-hander to return to max effort.
“Yesterday he threw about maybe 75 percent,” Martinez said. “Today he’s going to kind of air it out to see where he is at. If he passes that, we will see how he feels tomorrow. He might throw a side in a day or two.”
* The Nats face the Blue Jays’ top prospect in right-hander Nate Pearson tonight. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound rookie is making his major league debut and can throw in the triple digits. He was the Jays’ top selection in the 2017 draft.
“He’s a hard thrower,” Martinez said. “He throws up to touch 100 mph. He’s got three good pitches. For me, we got to get him in the strike zone. He’s a young pitcher. Just got to get him down and get him in the strike zone.
“He’s a young, top prospect for the Blue Jays, getting his first start. Hopefully, we make it difficult for him. He’s got good stuff. I’ve seen him on video. All the stuff is above average, his fastball is electric. For me, when guys throw like that we got to one, get him to throw strikes and two, get him down in the zone. That will be the key.”