Soto, on the 10-day injured list since April 20 with a strained left shoulder, continued to ramp up his throwing program before today’s game at Nationals Park, throwing from 120 feet.
“We’ll see how he gets through today, and then we’ll go from there. Hopefully it won’t be that much longer,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame Zoom session with reporters. “He feels good.”
Soto still needs to pass an important test: throwing to bases as he would in a game. That didn’t appear to be on today’s agenda, but the club could use Monday’s off-day to run the 22-year-old outfielder through that drill.
“We’ve got to get him stretched out,” Martinez said. “I want him to emulate throwing by hitting him ground balls and maybe him throwing to second base, throwing to third base, stuff like that.”
Today will mark the 10th game Soto has missed since going on the IL. The Nationals have fared surprisingly well without their best offensive player, going 6-3 entering the series finale against the Marlins, but clearly they miss him in their lineup.
Because his shoulder isn’t bothered when swinging, Soto has been able to hit off high-velocity pitching machines throughout his IL stint. That might allow him to return without actually playing in a rehab game or facing a live pitcher in some other kind of setting.
“He says the hitting has not been an issue,” Martinez said. “And he prepares by hitting off that velo machine. We’ve got machines that throw breaking balls. After talking to him, he says he’s not overly concerned about that. We’re just more worried about the reason he’s in this predicament was because of the throwing. He just wants to really make sure that when he throws, he doesn’t feel anything.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Strasburg emerged from his first bullpen session since going on the IL with right shoulder inflammation feeling well and was back to long tossing in the outfield this morning.
Strasburg, who threw 32 pitches in the bullpen Saturday, didn’t think he was as sharp as he wanted to be but felt physically fine, per Martinez, who had a more positive opinion of the session.
“I really thought after looking back, his two-seamer was really good. His changeup was phenomenal,” the manager said. “But we’ve got to build him back up.”
Strasburg would next throw another bullpen session this week, then perhaps be ready to make the first of likely multiple rehab starts for a minor league affiliate.
Wander Suero, out with a strained left oblique muscle, threw from 120 feet today and is scheduled to throw off a mound this week.