The Nationals were thinned to a lineup fit for a spring training game by the end of last week. On Saturday, with their record still sagging at 15-23, they will have Rendon and Soto back together in the middle of the order. Before going on the IL, Soto had five doubles, six home runs, 22 RBI and 16 runs, even if his strikeouts (32) and batting average (.248) indicate some sophomore struggles.
“Good, amazing, I feel really good right now,” Soto said Saturday when asked what it meant to return. “I know a little bit more of my body, how it works and everything, and I am really happy to be back.”
To make room for Soto on the 25-man roster, the Nationals optioned infielder Jake Noll to Class AAA Fresno. Noll, 25, has been up and down, given all of the Nationals’ injuries. Sending him down means Washington will stick with five outfielders after it signed veteran Gerardo Parra to a one-year deal Thursday. The group now consists of Soto, Parra, Victor Robles, Adam Eaton and Michael A. Taylor.
The Nationals again will have their preferred starters with Soto in left, Robles in center and Eaton in right, which is how they mostly aligned for the 28 games before Soto got hurt. Parra is a left-handed bat who can play all three outfield spots and first base. Taylor, who could have been optioned to the minors, has struggled at the plate but is the team’s best defender in the outfield.
Manager Dave Martinez likes having Taylor, whose value rests in his glove and arm, as a possible late-game replacement for Eaton. As a result, Washington’s bench consists of two outfielders, two utility players in Wilmer Difo and Adrian Sanchez, and whoever is not catching between Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki.
On Saturday, reliever Trevor Rosenthal made a rehab appearance with Class AA Harrisburg and threw a scoreless inning on 11 pitches. Rosenthal is on the 10-day IL with a viral infection and has been working to regain his control in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Earlier in the afternoon, as the Nationals announced that Soto was reinstated, Turner was sprinting around the bases at Dodger Stadium. His right finger was still wrapped in a splint, and his return is not imminent, but these were more positive signs for a club that has been banged-up for weeks.
Read more on the Nationals: