Juan Soto actually hit his first major league home run in a suspended game. Well, not really. How it goes down in the books he did. The game which officially was completed June 18th of 2018, began on May 15th, five days prior to Soto’s actual debut and six days prior to his first actual long ball. When the Washington Nationals series opener against the New York Mets became a suspended affair, they earned a second chance to put Soto on the Injured List, without risking further damage to his knee.
The first chance came either August 7th and 8th, when Soto was relegated to pinch hitting duties in two games against the Atlanta Braves. Though with an off day, the Nationals felt Soto was strong enough to stay on the active roster (even though they kept outfielder Lane Thomas on the taxi squad as the team traveled to New York).
Juan Soto’s first inning against the Mets made it painfully obvious he should not be playing baseball right now.
Putting Juan Soto on the Injured List might be in the best interest of the Nationals and the outfielder’s short term health.
Soto hit a three run home run to get the Nationals on the board in the first inning. He appeared to grimace as he was running between first and second base. For a lack of a better word he seemed as if he was laboring before hitting third base and finally he gritted his teeth before crossing home.
This didn’t look like a smooth, comfortable, home run trot, to say the least. When Soto took the field in the bottom half of the inning, he appeared to move sluggishly after misreading a ball hit by Dominic Smith
Gingerly isn’t the right word. However, Soto didn’t appear to be running after the ball at full strength. The rain was falling and Smith had a double regardless, leaving no reason to rush. Nonetheless, Soto’s movements weren’t convincing he was playing on two good legs. Soto may have been cleared to play, though he didn’t look like he should have been.
Are the Nationals playing for anything right now? What do they gain from having a less than 100% Juan Soto on the field. If anything they are playing for a better position in the draft order. And they accomplish that the fewer games Soto does play.
True, a less than 100% Soto is more productive than any other option the Nationals have right now, but why risk a more severe injury when the Nats are essentially playing meaningless games. When he’s healthy, he can play a few games in front of the home fans, sell a few more tickets. Risking injury and shelving him longer leaves the Nationals without their biggest draw.
Stick Soto on the Injured List, bring up Thomas and give the AAAA player an opportunity to turn a few heads heading into the offseason.