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Soto back, but limited to pinch hitting; Harris ready to pitch

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Juan Soto is back on the Nationals grid, just not in their arrangement. Will Harris is back in their bullpen, hoping he will remain available as much as he needs.

With a few mid-afternoon trades, the Nats got closer to full strength. They are still missing Stephen Strasburg and Wander Serum, but for now this is an important step in the right direction.

Soto is of course the biggest addition. The star slugger was triggered off the 10-day injured list in time for tonight’s series opener against the Braves, but there’s an important caveat: He’ll be limited to pinch-hitting duties for now until his left shoulder has healed enough to put him in to be able to make the necessary throws in a game.

“He hit the ball well,” said manager Davey Martinez during his Zoom pregame session with reporters. “Throwing is still a bit of a concern. So for today we are going to use it as a pinch hitter and then we keep building it up. He’s still doing his throwing program and we’ll see how he feels in the coming days. “

Soto-Claps-Dugout-Rail-Sidebar.jpgSoto, who left the IL on April 20 with a twisted left shoulder, has not yet attempted to pitch from right field to base. Martinez said they hope to get him through that test before Wednesday’s game.

Given that the Nationals will need a designated hitter against the Yankees this weekend, it looks like Soto will be deployed next week at the earliest.

“I spoke to him. He wants to be here. He wants to contribute in any way he can,” said Martinez. huge for our club … I don’t know, it could be one day, it could be two days, it could take three days for him to play on the right field, but I do know we have these three games, and then we’re going to play the Yankees, which we have a DH. So that helps a lot. “

The Nationals managed to go 7-3 with Soto at the IL, proof of the job Yadiel Hernandez in place in the right field. The 33-year old rookie, who hit .367 (11-for-30) with a .944 OPS, played so well that he will remain on the big league-roster for the foreseeable future. The club retains two left-handed reserve outfielders (Hernandez and Andrew Stevenson) and chose instead to designate veteran utility man Hernn Prez for assignment.

“He played his way to stay here and keep playing,” said Martinez, who again has Hernandez in second place tonight. “He has been a huge asset to us this year and has played a very big role in our line-up. Good for him. He’s been through a lot to get into the big leagues, and he’s taking full advantage of it. “

Harris, meanwhile, is finally ready to make his 2021 debut after a strange and frustrating spring with several ultimately misdiagnoses for swelling he experienced in his throwing hand. A doctor in West Palm Beach, Florida initially determined that Harris had a blood clot in his right arm. He was sent to a specialist in St. Louis who for a time believed that the 36-year-old reliever had thoracic outlet syndrome, a serious condition that derailed the careers of several pitchers.

But the clot and thoracic exhaust syndrome were eventually ruled out, and while there was never a firm diagnosis for Harris’s occasional hand swelling, he’s in no danger of pitching, so he’s allowed to come back.

“When I’m pitching, I don’t worry about it,” he said. “And when I recently told Davey that we were talking about being activated, I tried to make it as clear as possible to him that I didn’t want to be on the squad with an asterisk next to my name. I wanted to be here, and I am willing to contribute in a way that I have throughout my career. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t say I was ready. “

The Nationals have already reaped the benefits of a deep bullpen that has performed well, so Harris’s return is a boon to them. Martinez will also have the luxury of not having to put the veteran on the hill too often because of the other reliable options he already has at his disposal.

“He has been really good throughout this process and has remained really positive,” said the manager. “But we’re going to make sure that 1) he is ready every day, and 2) if he needs a day, he gets a day or two. I’m excited he’s back. “

To make room for Harris in their bullpen, the Nationals chose it Kyle McGowin to Triple-A Rochester.



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