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Soto progresses in Padres camp with optimism for WBC trip

Seattle Mariners v San Diego Padres

PEORIA, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 24, 2023: Juan Soto #22 of the San Diego Padres hits a single during the first inning of a spring training game against the Seattle Mariners at Peoria Stadium on February 24, 2023 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Diamond Images/Getty Images

Juan Soto ran sprints in the outfield, took some big swings in batting practice and signed a few autographs at the San Diego Padres spring training complex Wednesday after the early workout to test a left calf that kept him in Arizona.

Soto, who has been dealing with calf tightness, could still join the Dominican Republic team in Miami before it begins group play in the World Baseball Classic on Saturday against Venezuela. He even did some outfield work during his workout.

Padres manager Bob Melvin said the team increased the progression of Soto’s work, and that the outfielder could play in a “B” game against Cleveland on Thursday.

“If he plays in that, hopefully we can get him cleared ... and optimistic for potentially getting him on the road Friday,” Melvin said.

Soto remained in Peoria, Arizona, for treatment when Manny Machado, Luis García and Nelson Cruz left the Padres camp Monday to join the Dominican Republic. The 42-year-old Cruz, trying to make San Diego’s roster as a designated hitter/outfielder, is general manager for his country in the WBC.

Melvin said he had spoken to Cruz, who was trying to get a feel for Soto’s status. Cruz also was expected to speak with Padres GM A.J. Preller.

Once cleared, there should be no limits on Soto in the WBC.

“The plan is to get him get out in the field and let him play, and hopefully he can play in the field,” Melvin said. “But I think the backup plan would probably be DH.”

San Diego obtained the 24-year-old Soto in a trade-deadline deal last season. The Washington Nationals traded the two-time All-Star and 2019 World Series champion after he turned down a $440 million, 15-year contract.

HURTING TRADE

Frankie Montas said Wednesday his shoulder wasn’t fully healthy when he was acquired by the New York Yankees at the trade deadline last season, but the right-handed starter said he tried to “push through” after joining his new team.

Montas went 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA in eight starts last season after being obtained from Oakland. He is recovering from shoulder surgery that will keep him from throwing until at least late May.

“I was trying to push through,” Montas told reporters in his first comments since surgery two weeks earlier. “I got traded to a new team and wanted to show what I could do. Things didn’t go the way I was expecting.”

The Yankees placed Montas on the injured list in late September after his second cortisone injection of the year, knocking him out of the AL Division Series. He was on the roster for the AL Championship Series, but pitched only one inning in the opener against Houston.

Montas said he kept experiencing discomfort when trying to begin a throwing program during the offseason. While he tried to avoid surgery, he said that was the best option, and that he is confident that he will pitch this season for the Yankees.

“Trust me, I’m one of the guys that wants to be out there pitching right now and showing what I can do,” he said. “But things didn’t work out that way, so just trying to rehab and come back so I can help with whatever they want me to do.”

New York acquired Montas and reliever Lou Trivino from the Athletics on Aug. 1 in exchange for four prospects.

JUDGE IN LEFT

Aaron Judge played his first game in left field since he was a minor leaguer nearly seven years ago. The record-breaking slugger could end up playing quite a few games there for the New York Yankees this season.

Judge was in left field for the first five innings of the Yankees’ 4-0 exhibition loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, though he had no putouts.

Manager Aaron Boone has said he would like to use Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield for 40-60 games this season if the slugger is healthy. That would mean shifting Judge to left at times because Gold Glove winner Harrison Bader, acquired at last year’s trade deadline, is expected to get the bulk of the starts in center.

On way to setting the AL record with his 62 home runs last season, Judge started 74 games in center field, 54 in right field and 25 more as DH. He signed a $360 million, nine-year contract during the offseason.

The last time Judge had played left field before Wednesday was for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Syracuse on Aug. 7, 2016.

DeGROM DEALING

Two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom is moving closer to his first game action with the Texas Rangers, after bringing some heat when throwing to hitters for the first time in Surprise, Arizona.

The Rangers held deGrom out of their first scheduled workout three weeks ago after he reported tightness in his left side. They are still being cautious, but the right-hander has been throwing regularly, and on Wednesday was at 98-99 mph with his fastball. He hit 100 mph on the last of his 35 pitches during the equivalent of two innings during BP.

“Feel really good. It’s a big step facing hitters,” deGrom said.

Asked if he felt he would be ready for opening day, deGrom said, “I think so, yeah.”

Manager Bruce Bochy had said before the workout that he felt deGrom had turned a corner in his season preparation.

Texas signed deGrom to a $185 million, five-year contract in December. The 34-year-old deGrom spent the first nine years of his big league career with the New York Mets, but injuries limited him to 156 1/3 innings in 26 starts over the past two seasons.

In the Rangers’ exhibition game at Arizona, starter Jon Gray threw three scoreless innings, five days after being a late scratch from his scheduled start because of back tightness. The right-hander is going into the second year of a $56 million, four-year deal.

JANSEN’S WBC WAIT

Kenley Jansen could still be part of his fourth WBC with the Netherlands team - if it advances to the semifinals in Miami.

“So hopefully we’ll get there to Miami so he can join us from Fort Myers for the final round,” Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said before the team began pool play in Taiwan on Wednesday. Second-round games would be played in Japan.

Jansen is in his first spring training with the Boston Red Sox after the long-time closer spent last season with the Atlanta Braves.

“At the time we had to put out the roster on February 7, Kenley was not ready to throw at that time,” Meulens said. “He choose to get in shape first and join us later on if we get there. So we honor that decision. He switched teams, as well, but the last two times, also, he never came over here, so he always joined us in the last round.”

When Jansen first represented the Netherlands in the WBC in 2009, before becoming a full-time pitcher, he was the team’s starting catcher. He threw out speedy Willy Taveras trying to steal third base in the ninth inning when the Netherlands upset the favored Dominican Republic team. He didn’t appear in the 2013 semifinals after being a late addition to the Netherlands roster but did pitch in the 2017 semifinals.

LATE ARRIVAL

Gregory Soto, the hard-throwing lefty reliever the Philadelphia Phillies acquired in a January trade with Detroit, finally reported Wednesday to Tigers camp in Clearwater, Florida.

Soto had missed the first three weeks of camp while dealing with visa issues at home in the Dominican Republic. Because of the delay getting to spring training, Soto won’t be going to the WBC. He had been throwing at the Phillies’ academy in the Dominican Republic.

The two-time All-Star had 30 saves and a 3.28 ERA in 64 appearances for the Tigers last season. His fastball averaged 98.7 mph, leading major league left-handers.