WASHINGTON — Left fielder Juan Soto was reinstated by the Washington Nationals from the COVID-19 injured list Tuesday after missing the team’s first seven games of the season.
Manager Dave Martinez did not put the slugger in Washington’s starting lineup against the New York Mets for the opener of a two-game series Tuesday night. Martinez did say Soto was available to pinch hit.
“I talked to him last night and he really felt like he probably could use another day or two. He said his legs felt a little heavy. His arm was a little sore,” Martinez said. “He tried to ramp it up. ... The last four days, he probably got about 20 at-bats. In that respect, he doesn’t feel that bad, but I want to make sure we keep him healthy. We just got him back. He missed a lot of time.”
Soto was sidelined on Opening Day, July 23, after testing positive for the coronavirus.
He only was allowed to return to workouts on Saturday, part of an unusual four-day break for the Nationals caused by the suspension of the Miami Marlins’ season after a team outbreak of COVID-19.
The Nationals also reinstated right-handed reliever Wander Suero from the IL before Tuesday’s game and optioned outfielder Andrew Stevenson to the club’s alternate training site. Only one corresponding move was necessary because the Nationals already had placed reliever Will Harris on the IL last week.
The 21-year-old Soto is a big part of Washington’s offense. He had 34 homers and 110 RBIs during the 2019 regular season before becoming a postseason star while helping the franchise win its first World Series championship.
During a 3-4 start to the truncated season, the Nationals are averaging 3.4 runs per game and their team OPS is just .704.
Clearly, Martinez wants Soto in the middle of the order. But he also wants to be cautious.
“I told him: ‘You’ve got to understand, too, we do have a DH now. So these days where you need a day off, we can plop you at DH.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I forgot about that,’” Martinez said.