The Nats placed Soto on the 10-day injured list this evening with a left shoulder strain, an out-of-nowhere announcement less than an hour before they face the Cardinals on South Capitol Street, one that leaves this 5-9 club in further disarray at a moment when it couldn’t afford any more bad news.
There hadn’t been any obvious indication Soto was dealing with any ailment in recent days. He did just snap out of an 0-for-11 slump (the second-longest of his career) at the plate Monday night with a seventh-inning double off the right field wall, but he showed no signs of shoulder trouble during any of it.
Soto was in manager Davey Martinez’s original lineup this afternoon, batting second and starting in right field. That lineup was announced shortly before 3 p.m., prior to batting practice. Three hours later, he was on the IL, replaced on the active roster by fellow outfielder Yadiel Hernandez.
With their best hitter suddenly out, the Nationals scrambled to reconfigure their lineup. Andrew Stevenson will now lead off and take Soto’s spot in right field. Josh Harrison will bat second, with Trea Turner moved down to the three-spot in an apparent effort to get him at-bats with runners on base.
This is the third time Soto has landed on the IL during his career, though only the second time due to physical injury. He missed 10 days with back spasms in May 2019. And he notably missed the first seven games of the 2020 season after testing positive for COVID-19 (a test he and the team believe returned an inaccurate result).
The reigning National League batting champion was off to a hot start at the plate, batting .378 with two homers, seven RBIs and a team-high 10 runs through his first 10 games of the season, before his mini slump in recent days.
Even if this shoulder injury proves minor, Soto will be required to miss at least 10 days. That would make him eligible to return April 30 at the earliest. The Nats have only seven games scheduled during this 10-day stretch.
Soto now joins Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) on the 10-day IL. Will Harris (right hand inflammation), Wander Suero (strained left oblique) and Luis Avilán (torn elbow ligament) also are on the IL.