Nats place Soto (left shoulder strain) on IL

April 21st, 2021

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals placed right fielder on the 10-day injured list with a strained left shoulder on Tuesday night, scratching him from the starting lineup an hour before their game against the Cardinals.

Outfielder Yadiel Hernandez was recalled from the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., in a corresponding move.

“He was dealing with it the last few days, complaining of a tight tricep,” Manager Dave Martinez said of Soto following the Nats’ 3-2 win. “This morning, we figured we’d go get him an MRI. It showed he had a slight strain in his left shoulder. We’re early, we’ve got some days off. We thought, 'Hey, we’re not going to take any chances with him.'”

The left-handed hitting Soto is slashing .300/.410/.460 with an .870 OPS and two home runs in 14 games this year. He snapped a three-game hitless skid on Monday with his second double of the season. Soto has a .964 fielding percentage in his return to right, where he played in the Minor Leagues.

Soto began receiving treatment on Tuesday, and he will not travel with the team on their upcoming five-game road trip to New York and Dunedin, Fla., to face the Mets and Blue Jays. He is restricted to non-throwing work, including running, leg and core exercises. Once Soto is cleared for baseball activity, he will do so at the alternate training site.

“He says it doesn’t really bother him swinging the bat,” Martinez said. “Hopefully, he continues to get better here soon.”

The Nationals called on Andrew Stevenson to start in right field in place of Soto on Tuesday. Stevenson, a left-handed hitter with the ability to play all three outfield positions, earned the fourth outfield spot during Spring Training.

The Nats also shifted their batting order, where Soto had been hitting second behind Trea Turner. Instead, Stevenson batted leadoff, followed by the hot-hitting Josh Harrison in the No. 2 spot, Turner third and Josh Bell fourth. It was only the sixth game in Turner’s career in which he has batted in the No. 3 spot.

“We’ve all got to play well in order to win ballgames,” Turner said. “I say it all the time, but it’s true -- it’s not a one-man show, it’s a team sport. We need to pitch well, we need to play defense and we need to hit.”

The veteran Hernandez has appeared in five games for the Nationals this season (1-for-7 at the plate). The Nationals like his energy, and he improved his speed during camp.

“I love the way he swings the bat,” Martinez said. “He understands the pinch-hitting role. I told him, ‘You’ll get an opportunity to start some games here while you’re here, so just be ready.’”

Soto adds to the already lengthy list of Nationals players on the IL, joining starters Jon Lester (COVID-19 protocols) and Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) as well as relievers Luis Avilán (torn left UCL, to undergo Tommy John surgery), Will Harris (right hand inflammation) and Wander Suero (left oblique strain). The team has been dealing with a shorthanded roster since the beginning of the season, when four players tested positive for COVID-19.

“I [told the team], we’ve got to keep battling every day. It’s going to be a battle every day. That’s why we play 162 games,” Martinez said. “‘Keep fighting every day. At the end of this, we’re going to be OK and we’re going to come out on top.’”