Soto was not in the Nationals lineup Monday against the Reds, and manager Dave Martinez still considered him day to day. But Soto was on the field testing his ankle before the game, jogging in the outfield and attempting to swing in the cage in hopes of being available to pinch-hit.
“I told him, 'You gave me a heart attack, you really did,’” Martinez said. “Now we know he's good and he's going to be OK. It's just continuing to strengthen him. He was adamant today about wanting to do something, but we said we had to know where he's at, got to test it.”
It’s a stark contrast to the initial fears in the seventh inning on Sunday, when Soto pulled up injured rounding third base and at first could not put any weight on his ankle. Soto admitted he was afraid he had broken his foot, the same injury he suffered in May of 2017. Martinez said he nearly choked on sunflower seeds in the dugout when the injury occurred.
That made the negative X-rays a relief, because the Nats cannot afford to be without Soto for long.
Gerardo Parra started in left field in his place on Monday against the Reds, but Washington does not have much outfield depth behind him. Soto, 20, is having a fantastic sophomore season, posting a slash line of .288/.402/.540 with a 139 OPS+, 24 home runs and 3.2 Wins Above Replacement, according to Fangraphs. Losing him for any extended stretch would leave a huge hole in the middle of this lineup.
But Soto appears to have avoided any serious injury and could be back in the lineup in the next few days.
“He wants to play, but let's take our time and see if you're available to pinch hit and we'll put you in a situation where we need you,” Martinez said. “I’m assuming that, by what the medical staff is saying, is that it won't be very long.”
• Max Scherzer is scheduled to pitch a simulated game on Tuesday at Nationals Park. Martinez was not ready to commit to a plan following the sim game, however, saying the team would wait to see how Scherzer feels after it before deciding if he should throw another one.
“He's ready to go out there and ready to compete,” Martinez said. “This is a first for him, so he deals with a lot of stuff. There's a lot of stuff that goes on in that brain. But we got to get him healthy and I tell him this every day. I tell him, man: 100 percent, that's our goal.”
• Howie Kendrick was activated from the injured list on Monday after spending just about the minimum number of days on the sidelines with a left hamstring strain. Andrew Stevenson was optioned to Double-A Harrisburg to create room on the roster.
• Brian Dozier was out of the lineup for the second straight game on Monday while battling some flu-like symptoms. Dozier has been feeling ill since Sunday, but he was able to make a pinch-hit appearance in that game against the Mets, which made Martinez optimistic he would have been available on Monday.
• Martinez was hopeful left-hander Roenis Elias, on the injured list with a right hamstring strain, will be able to throw off a mound by the end of the week. He has been strengthening his hamstring with the hopes of getting comfortable landing on his foot.