PHILADELPHIA - Juan Soto was hitting in the cage before Wednesday’s game at Nationals Park when he first noticed a problem with his back.
“I was hitting in the cage, and I just did a deep breath and started feeling something, and I went right to the trainer’s room,” he said. “And then it was stuck, and I can’t even move. And after that I started getting treatments, and now we’re here.”
“Here” is on the 10-day injured list, a place of residency Soto has never occupied in his brief major league career. After watching their young outfielder go three days without being available to even pinch-hit due to back spasms, the Nationals decided not to wait any longer and made the transaction today, recalling Andrew Stevenson from Triple-A Fresno to take his roster spot.
The move was backdated three days, so Soto will be eligible to return May 11. In the meantime, he becomes the latest member of the Nationals lineup to land on the IL, joining Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman.
“Look, we have to keep playing hard until these guys all come back,” said manager Davey Martinez, whose team has lost seven of its last nine games and now owns a 13-18 record. “Hopefully, they’ll be back shortly, and we’ll get going and get our full lineup back in.”
Soto had spent the last few days testing his back to see if he could play and avoid the IL. But his back continued to act up when he tried to swing. Now he said he’ll take four or five days off before attempting to resume baseball activities.
By the time Soto is eligible to return, Rendon could be back in the lineup. His 10-day IL stint for a bruised left elbow ends May 7, and the star third baseman was on the field today taking grounders and batting practice, encouraging signs of progress.
Turner, meanwhile, is encouraged by his own progress four and a half weeks after he broke his left index finger trying to bunt. The shortstop has not yet been cleared to hit or throw, but he said today “I think it’s getting fairly close.”
“We’re a little ahead of schedule,” said Turner, who was told it would take four to six weeks for the bone to heal. “I didn’t think we’d be able to do it this early, both of them. But hopefully, here pretty soon. Obviously, it depends how I feel. So if I come in and it doesn’t feel good, then we’re not going to progress. But if it does, then we’ll try to keep pushing it and hopefully that stuff happens soon.”