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Nats get boost as Soto returns from injured list

@JamalCollier
May 12, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- The Nationals moved a step closer to full strength Saturday, when they activated left fielder Juan Soto from the injured list prior to their game against the Dodgers. Soto rejoins the Nationals after missing the past 10 games while battling back spasms, and his absence from the

LOS ANGELES -- The Nationals moved a step closer to full strength Saturday, when they activated left fielder Juan Soto from the injured list prior to their game against the Dodgers.

Soto rejoins the Nationals after missing the past 10 games while battling back spasms, and his absence from the lineup was noticed. Washington lost seven of 10 games without him, batting .211 and averaging 2.8 runs per game. He returns to the lineup riding a 15-game on-base streak in his sophomore season, batting .248/.368/.467 with six home runs.

Jake Noll was optioned to Triple-A Fresno in a corresponding move.

“I feel really good right now,” Soto said. “I know a little bit more about my body, how it works and everything. I feel very happy to be back.”

Soto’s return should provide a huge boost to the Nationals, who spent much of the past week playing without two crucial hitters in the middle of their lineup. They now have their Nos. 3 and 4 hitters back; third baseman Anthony Rendon, who was sidelined with a bruised left elbow, returned Tuesday. It should help this struggling offense, even though it is still missing first basemen Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Adams and shortstop Trea Turner.

“It kind of extends our lineup,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Plus you’re talking about two guys that are in the middle of our lineup."

Soto does return without the benefit of a Minor League rehab assignment, but the Nationals were confident in his status after he tested his back during a full pregame routine the day prior -- taking grounders and fly balls in the outfield, a full round of batting practice and running the bases.

However, Martinez plans to keep an eye on Soto in his first day back. He has not played since April 30, after he developed the back issues while swinging in the batting cage. The 20-year old phenom had not dealt with any back issues prior to that point and he was not sure why his back started bothering him then, which will leave the Nats monitoring Soto closely although he is confident the issue is behind him.

“I think it’s gone,” Soto said. “It was tight, we’re gonna keep working with like massages and other stuff to make sure it doesn’t come back but I think it’s gone.”

Rosenthal begins rehab assignment

Trevor Rosenthal began a Minor League rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg on Saturday, tossing a scoreless seventh inning and collecting a strikeout, as he begins the process toward working his way back into the Nationals’ bullpen.

Rosenthal, who is on the injured list with a viral infection, had been working out at the team’s complex in West Palm Beach, where long-time Nationals player-development advisor Spin Williams had been helping him with a mechanical tweak. Rosenthal is likely to receive multiple relief appearances in the Minors to help work on his mechanics in game action and re-build some confidence after a disastrous start to the season.

In seven appearances with the Nats, Rosenthal gave up 12 runs and recorded just nine outs. He walked nine, hit three batters and uncorked five wild pitches. The reports Martinez received from Florida say Rosenthal’s mechanics have improved his control, that even when he misses the zone the ball is sailing up and down instead of east and west.

“I want him to feel good about himself and where he’s at,” Martinez said.

Injury notes

Turner ran the bases during early work at Dodger Stadium before taking batting practice and fielding grounders with the team prior to the game. He could be ready for a Minor League rehab assignment sometime next week.

“Every day he climbs another hurdle,” Martinez said. “Hopefully he continues to do that and we don’t have any setbacks.”

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.