With his team playing at Yankee Stadium this weekend, manager Davey Martinez is able to utilize Soto as his designated hitter for tonight’s interleague series opener. And prior to the game, the 22-year-old was planning to attempt to make throws from right field to second and third base for the first time since going on the injured list April 20 with a left shoulder strain.
If Soto passes that throwing test today, he could start in right field for Saturday’s matinee.
“I think if he shows up tomorrow, he might be good to go,” Martinez said during his pregame Zoom session with reporters. “But it’s all going to depend on how he feels. Hopefully he gets through today. He’s going to throw a few balls to second base, a couple to third base, after his throwing program. And then we’ll see how he feels after that.”
If Soto is cleared to play the field, that will give Martinez the luxury of starting both Josh Bell and Ryan Zimmerman for the rest of the series, one of them at first base while the other serves as DH.
In the meantime, the Nationals are just happy to have Soto in the lineup for the first time in 18 days. Restricted to pinch-hitting duties the last three nights against the Braves, he’ll now get a chance to get more consistent at-bats and rediscover his timing at the plate.
“Getting him four consistent at-bats today and getting him back in there tomorrow is definitely going to help him,” Martinez said. “He’s got such a good approach. I don’t want him to think about hitting homers or anything. I just want him to have good at-bats, swing at strikes and put the ball in play. He’s really good at that. Yesterday I thought he had a great at-bat, lined out to left field. It’s just a matter of his timing right now because he hasn’t played. But it’s getting better.”
For the first time since 2019, the Nationals were allowed to bring injured players with them on the road. With the alternate training site no longer operational since the minor league season has commenced, players on the IL are free to travel and rehab with the big league training and coaches staffs.
Martinez sees a significant benefit in that change in protocols.
“Absolutely, most definitely. When these guys have to stay back or go somewhere else, it’s never the same for them,” the manager said. “They’re so used to their teammates and what we do here. So it’s kind of nice that they’re here with us.”
That means both Stephen Strasburg and Wander Suero are in New York this weekend, though Suero won’t be there for long. The reliever, on the IL since April 18 with a left oblique strain, will head to Lehigh Valley and make a rehab appearance for visiting Triple-A Rochester on Sunday.
Strasburg, meanwhile, will work out with the club all weekend and then return to D.C. with everyone. He’ll pitch in a simulated game (his second since going on the IL with right shoulder inflammation) before Tuesday night’s series opener against the Phillies.