Notes: Soto returns, Strasburg throws

August 5th, 2020

WASHINGTON -- was reinstated from the injured list on Tuesday, and he is available to pinch-hit against the Mets. The left fielder is not in the starting lineup as the Nationals are taking a cautious approach to his 2020 season debut.

“He’s getting there,” manager Dave Martinez said. “I just want to make sure we keep him healthy.”

Soto was placed on the COVID-19 IL on Opening Day, July 23. He was cleared to rejoin the team on Saturday, and he participated in workouts and intrasquad scrimmages during the Nationals’ four-day layoff in between games. Over that time, Martinez estimates Soto took 20 at-bats. By Monday night, Soto was not feeling game ready yet for the Nats' series opener vs. New York.

“I talked to him last night, and he really felt like he probably could use another day or two,” Martinez said. “He said his legs felt a little heavy, his arm was a little sore. … He missed a lot of time, so we want to make sure when he’s here now, that he’s here to help us every day and that he doesn’t get injured.”

Washington’s plan is for Soto to hit, run and take ground balls on Tuesday. In the future, the slugging left-hander could be used in the designated-hitter role when he needs some rest.

“Even though he doesn’t like that because he loves to play the field, we might have to DH him some days,” Martinez said.

Andrew Stevenson, who started in two games this season in Soto’s absence, was optioned to the Nationals' alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va. Josh Harrison was tabbed to start in left field against the Mets.

Nats get surprise (video) visitors
The Nationals surprised the players and coaches before the game with video messages from their families. They were warming up on the field and filling up the dugout when the special feature began on the Jumbotron, and both teams paused to watch the well wishes. 

“Very emotional for everybody,” Martinez said of the gesture after the Nationals’ 5-3 win. “I was shocked. I saw my daughters and my sons all up there, my grandbabies. Man, I miss them. I miss them tremendously. It was good to see them up there, and I think that uplifted the boys a lot. It really did.”

Strasburg to face live hitters
Stephen Strasburg (right hand nerve issue) is scheduled for a sim game on Wednesday so he can throw against live batters. There is no date set for his first start of the season. 

“He wants to get back out there,” Martinez said. “He says the longer time that he is not out there and not facing hitters, the worse he thinks he’s going to be. He wants to get going as quick as possible and get back out there as quick as possible. For us, that’s a good thing. Having a Stephen Strasburg out on the mound and back in the rotation’s awesome. Then again, we want to make sure he’s 100%.”

Suero ‘good to go’
Wander Suero was also reinstated from the IL on Tuesday. Like Soto, he has yet to make his regular-season debut. The right-handed reliever has been rehabbing in Fredericksburg, where he was ramping up his velocity and threw to hitters on Monday.

“I’m going to have to plop him in situations, maybe early in the game until we get him going,” Martinez said. “He’s only thrown like four innings since he’s been back, so we’ve got to be awfully careful with him as well.”

There are innings to be had for Suero -- Washington’s bullpen is down one arm with Will Harris on the 10-day IL (right groin strain). Last season, Suero threw 71 1/3 frames. He was 6-9 with a 4.54 ERA over 78 games.

“Hopefully we don’t need him today,” Martinez said. “We’ll give him the day and he’s in there tomorrow. But if we need him today, he said he was good to go.”