Soto expected to be full-go in Classic play

March 10th, 2023

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A loaded Team Dominican Republic just got more impressive.

left Padres camp Thursday night to join the Dominican Republic for the World Baseball Classic, giving the Pool D favorite another big bat in a lineup that also includes San Diego teammates Manny Machado and Nelson Cruz.

Soto appeared to answer any lingering concerns about recent left calf tightness with five plate appearances in a “B” game against the Guardians on Thursday, when he walked twice and stole a base.

“It went as we thought,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “[Soto] ran around, stole a base and felt good. It’s nice to get him over there with his guys. Got him out last night, so he could work out with the team for a day before a game.”

Because of the calf issue, early projections had Soto being used as a DH in the Classic, but the Padres believe he is prepared for full activity.

“Don’t know if DH is in the offing at the beginning,” Melvin said. “I think he has cleared enough hurdles to potentially play left, but I have not talked to [Dominican general manager] Nelson [Cruz].”

The Dominican Republic opens Classic play against Panama at loanDepot park in Miami on Saturday. The top two finishers after round-robin play in each of the four groups advance to the quarterfinals.

Padres right-hander Luis García also is playing for the Dominican Republic.

“We embrace this tournament and understand that guys want to play for their country, and it’s gotten more and more popular every time it is played,” Melvin said. “You worry about injury obviously, but they get injured here, too.”

The Padres have seen early spring signs that Soto will revert to his All-Star form this season. He hit .236 with six homers in 228 plate appearances after arriving in San Diego in a Trade Deadline deal with Washington last summer.

“All fields. Power. Just kind of who he is,” Melvin said of Soto's early spring at-bats. “We’ve said all along starting here fresh, new season, Spring Training, being around this group. You are going to see what Juan Soto is all about.

“The back of his baseball card doesn’t lie.”