Sunday, September 19, 2021

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A day after Juan Soto tweaked his knee, the Nationals give their star a rest


ATLANTA - Out of caution, and because they arent in the thick of a pennant race, the Washington Nationals decided to sit Juan Soto on Friday, giving his right knee more time to heal.

Soto, 22, the reigning NL batting champion and an all-star last month, hurt his knee while running the bases in a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. That happened in the ninth inning, with Soto limping home to score the game's final run. On Friday, then, ahead of a series opener with the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park, Soto did agility drills and jogged in the afternoon.

He said he felt "fine" afterward, grinning a bit. Manager Dave Martinez later noted that Soto still "felt it a bit," leading the Nationals to rest him and start veteran Gerardo Parra in right field. Soto was available to pinch hit, according to Martinez, though the manager hinted that he'd likely get the full night off.

"He took his secondary lead [Thursday] and kind of tweaked his right knee," Martinez said Friday. "I don't think there's a major concern, but we want to make sure he's OK."

If the pain worsens and Soto is forced to go on the 10-day injured list, the team has added outfielder Lane Thomas to its taxi squad. Thomas, 25, is with the team in Atlanta, called in from the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings after being acquired last week in a deadline trade that sent starter Jon Lester to the St. Louis Cardinals. He is comfortable at all three outfield positions, but struggled at the plate in a short stint with the Cardinals earlier this season, posting a slash line of .104/.259/.125 in 58 plate appearances.

In a small sample with the Red Wings, he singled and doubled in his first game, smacked a leadoff homer in his second and a walk-off single in his third. On one hand, Soto is impossible to replace, by Thomas or anyone else. Soto led the majors in on-base-plus-slugging percentage in July (1.176) and is one of the league's most feared hitters. But on the other, the Nationals have decided to build for the future, making it unnecessary to play him if there is even a minuscule risk to his long-term health.

They entered the weekend on a four-game losing streak, trailing the New York Mets by 7½ games in the NL East.

Published : August 07, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Jesse Dougherty