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Soto, Strasburg each nearing return

Kendrick scratched Wednesday due to upper back stiffness
@jessicacamerato
July 29, 2020

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals hope to have Juan Soto back for workouts this weekend. Soto, who was placed on the COVID-19 injured list on Thursday, has been cleared by Major League Baseball after receiving two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. The Nats are awaiting clearance from the Washington

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals hope to have Juan Soto back for workouts this weekend.

Soto, who was placed on the COVID-19 injured list on Thursday, has been cleared by Major League Baseball after receiving two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. The Nats are awaiting clearance from the Washington D.C. Health Department.

“We hope to have him back [Saturday], so he could work out with us Saturday,” Martinez said on Wednesday. “That’s all I got. That’s all they gave me.”

Soto has yet to play this season. He also had to wait the majority of Summer Camp before he was cleared to participate.

“He’s hurting right now,” Martinez said. “He wants to be with the guys. He’s just waiting, trying to get back as soon as possible. I talked to him this morning; he’s a little down. I told him all he can do is hang in there and we’re doing the best we can to get him back here as quick as possible. We’re in a tough situation. We definitely miss him. We can’t wait to get him back.”

If Soto is cleared, this weekend presents an opportunity for him to ease back into baseball activities. The Nationals’ originally scheduled three-game series against the Marlins was postponed amid COVID-19 concerns. The team is determining its plan for baseball activity over those three days, which may include sim games.

Strasburg pain ‘minimal’
Erick Fedde will start on Thursday in the series finale against the Blue Jays as Stephen Strasburg continues to progress in his recovery from a nerve issue in his right hand.

“He’s got very minimal pain, if not any pain, in his thumb now,” Martinez said. “Hopefully, we get through this and he can pitch and help us win ballgames. But we want to make sure this doesn’t become an issue or problem somewhere else.”

Strasburg is slated to throw from 75-80 feet on Wednesday after throwing at “75 percent” off flat ground a day earlier. There is a possibility that the righty also could throw a side session on Thursday or Friday.

“We want to make sure the mechanics are right, that he’s throwing the ball properly and that he’s able to go out there and do what he’s capable of doing," Martinez said.

Fedde, who was a candidate for the final starting spot, made a spot start in place of Strasburg on Saturday. He allowed two runs and struck out three over four innings in the Nats’ win over the Yankees.

Kendrick scratched
Howie Kendrick was a late scratch from Wednesday’s lineup due to upper back stiffness, though he was available to pinch-hit.

Kendrick originally was penciled in as the designated hitter in the third spot. Instead, Asdrúbal Cabrera will bat third in the order and shift from third base to DH, while Carter Kieboom will start at the hot corner. Kieboom had been dealing with a groin issue that limited his lateral movement.

Young, hungry opponent
When Max Scherzer made his Major League debut on April 29, 2008, Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was only 9 years old. The Nationals' ace will face a young core of Toronto players that are hungry in the early stages of their big league careers.

“He's a great pitcher,” said Guerrero, who homered off Austin Voth on Tuesday. “I've seen him on TV a lot. My mentality right now is just go up there and be aggressive. I just want to be aggressive, look for my pitch and take a hack, see what happens. But definitely, he's a great pitcher.”

Scherzer will look to quiet a Blue Jays squad that hit six home runs against the Nationals in their first two meetings of the season.

"These guys are going to swing the bat,” Martinez said. “As we saw, their leadoff hitter [Teoscar Hernández] goes up -- he's very aggressive, he swings at the first pitch he sees. Max is a veteran guy. He understands that they are going to be up there and they are going to be overly aggressive. You just got to make good pitches."

Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.