“He’s going to do full activity today, groundballs, flyballs, hit on the field, run the bases,” Manager Dave Martinez said ahead of Friday night’s matchup with the Dodgers. “And if everything goes well, we’ll activate him tomorrow.”
As for how Washington (15-22) will clear room for Soto on the 25-man roster, Martinez was noncommittal. The Nationals signed Gerardo Parra to a one-year deal Thursday, and the 32-year-old outfielder will make his debut Friday against right-handed starter Kenta Maeda. Once Soto is healthy, Washington will have five outfielders in him, Parra, Adam Eaton, Victor Robles and Michael A. Taylor. Martinez did not specify whether the Nationals would carry that many outfielders and instead said they will discuss it once Soto is back.
Washington’s bench consists of Parra, utility man Adrian Sanchez, infielder Jake Noll and whoever is not starting at catcher. It seems unlikely that two of those four bench spots will be occupied by outfielders, but Martinez has noted Parra’s ability to fill-in at first base if need be. Taylor has one minor league assignment remaining, and because he has not yet reached five years of service time, the Nationals would not need his approval if they chose to send him down. He has struggled since returning from left knee and hip sprains in April and has a .175 average after notching two hits in four at-bats Thursday.
Yet the most important element of this situation is that Soto, one of Washington’s best power threats, should be returning soon. Soto has struggled a bit in his second season — which came after one of the best 19-year-old performances in history — but still has six home runs and five doubles through 28 games. It is not quite having Turner, Zimmerman and Adams back in the lineup or on the bench. But it sure is getting closer for a team that has been racked by injuries all year.
“I’ve seen a more excited kid the last few days,” Martinez said. “The first few days he was kind of down because he wanted to be out there with his teammates and playing. But he is upbeat and looking forward to coming back.”