Soto (calf) delayed as Team D.R. meets in Miami

March 6th, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Manny Machado rolled into Padres camp briefly on Monday morning, said hi to a few teammates and coaches, then departed for a flight to join the Dominican Republic team in Miami ahead of the World Baseball Classic.

Not joining Machado? Superstar teammate Juan Soto, who stayed behind in Peoria as he battles lingering tightness in his left calf. Soto remains optimistic he'll be able to participate in the WBC, with the team’s first game slated for Saturday against Venezuela (7 p.m. ET on FS1). But he has a few hurdles to clear, and when the tournament begins, he might play a limited role.

Soto was initially slated to join Padres teammates Machado, Nelson Cruz and Luis García in heading to Miami on Monday. Instead, he went through some running drills and took batting practice.

"Right now, it feels good," Soto said. "It's improving a lot; it feels pretty good. But they want to make sure I'm ready to go."

Understandable. Soto is an immensely valuable weapon in a Padres lineup that will be without Fernando Tatis Jr. for the first 20 games of the season. The same holds true for Soto's place within the Dominican Republic lineup. He's a crucial piece on a team that is without Vladimir Guerrero Jr. following his recent withdrawal due to injury.

Even without Guerrero, the Dominican Republic enters as one of the tournament's clear favorites. The Padres, meanwhile, have an in with that federation. Cruz, their DH, is also the general manager of Team D.R., and Padres manager Bob Melvin has already spoken with Cruz about Soto.

"If anything pops up, he knows where to find me," Melvin quipped.

Presently, all signs point to Soto joining his D.R. teammates later this week, if his progression continues. The injury clearly hasn't affected his bat, as he's posted a 2.023 OPS in four Cactus League games, with similar results on the Peoria Sports Complex backfields.

There's a possibility Soto could be used as a designated hitter, removing the burden of playing defense. Perhaps he plays only a couple pool-play games, as needed.

Melvin noted that those discussions with the Dominican Republic are ongoing. But he, like Soto, remains optimistic about Soto's participation.

"I'm still confident that he will [play in the Classic]," Melvin said. "I know that he wants to, as well. But if this thing lingers a little bit, and he's not confident running, we'll see where it goes."