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Talking hitting, Bryce Harper suits, and what’s next with Juan Soto

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Talking hitting, Bryce Harper suits, and what’s next with Juan Soto

Here’s a fun question: What’s next for Juan Soto?

When you’re 19 years old and the baseline is a .923 OPS and 142 OPS-plus, encores can be tricky. And, Soto didn’t stop his eye-popping first-year journey when the season ended. He went to Japan as part of an MLB “All-Star” team. There, he hit dome roofs twice with fly balls. One was called a double. Another, which he hit on the sweet spot, was called an out. Soto posited it may be the loudest out of his career.

“I heard the people do like, ‘Ohhhh,’” Soto told NBC Sports Washington about the reaction when he hit it.

Soto joined The Racing Presidents podcast to discuss that Japan trip, his first season, improving his outfield work, being recognized, the favor Bryce Harper did for him and more. The discussion with Soto is part of our extensive series of 1-on-1 sitdowns with Nationals players during spring training.

After each spring training team workout, Soto added more personal work. He does agility drills and sprints on the field just outside the Nationals’ clubhouse. He wants to work on straight line speed as well as a change of direction.

“Sometimes you run to the ball and the ball takes [a hop] another way so you have to make a quick move,” Soto said.

If Soto has one clear place for development in his age-20 season, it’s in left field. He rarely played the position before coming to the major leagues last year. The Nationals sent him into left to get his bat in the lineup. He learned the position on the fly via early work at every new field. Irreplaceable in-game experience backed those lessons.

“I feel better than when they called me up,” Soto said of his outfield work.

The outfield has recently become a cause for consternation in West Palm Beach, where the Nationals are in the final two weeks of spring training. Manager Davey Martinez told reporters Friday that center fielder Michael A. Taylor will have an MRI on his left knee and hip after a painful dive forced him out of Thursday’s game.

Washington’s outfield depth is limited. Slugger and first baseman Matt Adams played left field in Friday’s game. Howie Kendrick is still recovering from a hamstring strain. Neither is a good defensive option in the outfield. They also don’t qualify as a fourth outfielder who can play multiple positions, the way Taylor does.

The Racing President crew gets into those complications, Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr., plus thoughts on a rule change for 2019 which creates a single trade deadline July 31.

Listen, subscribe, rate, and stay tuned for more 1-on-1 conversations with players -- including Ryan Zimmerman, Sean Doolittle and Trea Turner -- to come next week.

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Patrick Corbin keeps throwing quality starts

Washington Nationals Roundup: Patrick Corbin keeps throwing quality starts

The Washington Nationals dropped their first game in Colorado, but pulled out a 6-3 win Tuesday night behind Patrick Corbin and Victor Robles.

Here's the latest Nats and Rockies news. 

Player Notes: 

NATIONALS:

Anthony Rendon (elbow) remained out of the Nats lineup Tuesday after getting hit by a pitch over the weekend in Miami. While it was the third-straight game he's missed, he could be available to pinch-hit soon. 

Shortstop Trea Turner has not yet been cleared to throw or hit. Turner has been taking grounders and participating in other baseball activities after fracturing his finger April 2. He is two and a half weeks into his projected 4-6 week rehabilitation. 

Max Scherzer is on track to make his scheduled start Friday against the Padres. The starting pitcher tweaked his left intercostal after dodging a foul ball in Sunday's game. 

Starting pitcher Patrick Corbin tossed another quality start, going six innings and allowing two earned runs. He struck out six and walked just one.

Outfielder Victor Robles had a nice day in his third straight game hitting out of the second spot in the order, going 2-for-5 and driving in three runs early. 

ROCKIES:

Infielder Ryan McMahon was the only Rockie to muster multiple hits Tuesday night, going 2-for-4 with a run scored. 

Outfielder Raimel Tapia hit a home run in his second straight at-bat, driving in two runs in the second inning to give the Rockies and early lead.

Jeff Hoffman scuffled through five innings, allowing four runs. He gave up six hits, though he also struck out six while walking none.

Injuries:

3B Anthony Rendon: Elbow hit by pitch, sidelined

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, 10-day IL

RP Justin Miller: Back, 10-day IL

SS Trea Turner: Finger, 10-day IL

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, 10-day IL

Coming Up:

Wednesday, 4/24: Nationals @ Rockies, 3:10 p.m. ET, Coors Field

Friday, 4/26: Padres @ Nationals, 7:05 p.m. ET, Nationals Park 

Saturday, 4/27: Padres @ Nationals, 4:05 p.m. ET, Nationals Park 

Source: Rotoworld

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Nationals bullpen -- yes, them -- comes through for a night

Nationals bullpen -- yes, them -- comes through for a night

The Washington Nationals beat the Colorado Rockies, 6-3, Tuesday night to move up to 11-11. Here are five observations from the game…

1. Tuesday’s win was a painful process, but not for the normal reasons.

Juan Soto fouled a 3-2 pitch off his right ankle in the top of the ninth. Eventually, he rose after writing in pain to walk with the bases loaded. Howie Kendrick was hit by a pitch. That drove in another run. Washington led, 6-3. Sean Doolittle was forced to the plate after entering the game in the eighth inning. He struck out in his third career at-bat.

The padding was enough for Doolittle, who made his 11th appearance of the season 22 games into it. The evening provided his third outing of an inning-plus already. At the start of his career, Doolittle was often used for more than an inning per outing. After shoulder trouble, that tendency declined greatly until this season.

He finished a quality day for the bullpen: three scoreless innings and limited trouble. Patrick Corbin was solid over six innings, if not the spectacular level of his previous two outings.

The Nationals, you guessed it, are back to even with one road game remaining on this stretch.

2. Victor Robles the wrecking ball is here for your viewing pleasure.

Atop the left-center field wall and falling back to Earth with no support. Crashing into the wall in another instance. Tuesday, roaring into the third base bag so hard the front leg is jammed, sending Robles flipping over the bag and desperate to dive back in when stealing it. He stole second base with a more traditional approach two innings later.

What Robles is: explosive, and a bit reckless. What he’s not: boring.

His three-run, third-inning double vaulted Washington back in front. The steal of third came after Juan Soto failed to move Robles over, so he just made it there himself with one out.

Robles’ gangbusters approach reminds of a young Bryce Harper. Often making contact with immovable objects to his possible detriment is fun to watch. Though it might not be the best thing for him or the Nationals.

3. Coors Field has never been Corbin’s friend. Coming into Tuesday, the Rockies had a .938 OPS against Corbin at their home park in a strong sample size of 247 plate appearances. It’s a bad place for any pitcher. Corbin sees his stuff flatten in the thin air.

Tuesday, Corbin survived more than he controlled the game. A potent start gave way to a two-run homer in the second inning, another run in the fifth, and an exit after the sixth. The run in the fifth was unearned, though it also came when Corbin was trying to wriggle out of trouble he created.

Corbin threw 103 pitches. None more important than the ones in the sixth, which he turned into a 1-2-3 inning, allowing Davey Martinez to set up his bullpen distribution how he would prefer.

4. Martinez told reporters earlier in the day he expected to use Joe Ross in a more high-leverage relief situation going forward. He did that Tuesday, though Ross threw just three pitches.

Ross started the seventh inning. He recorded an out, then was removed for left-handed specialist Tony Sipp after a left-handed pinch-hitter -- David Dahl -- was announced. Left-handed Charlie Blackmon was next. Sipp took care of both, doing his matchup job.

Wander Suero was next. He worked around a leadoff double by getting Nolan Arenado to ground out and Mark Reynolds to strike out.

Martinez turned to Doolittle after that.

The quibble here is Ross for one out. Suero -- or even Kyle Barraclough -- could have appeared for one batter a night after they both threw an inning. That puts Ross, appearing to be an effective reliever thus far, in a spot to throw more than three pitches.

Everything Martinez did Tuesday worked. He matched up multiple times. The choices held a one-run lead going into the ninth, which is what they have been desperate to do all season. But Ross’ usage since he went to the bullpen has been odd, whether it’s not appearing for a long time or being used for a three-pitch outing.

5. Raimel Tapia is a part-time outfielder with speed. Until he plays the Nationals.

Tapia hit a pinch-hit homer Monday night. He hit a two-run homer Tuesday night in his first at-bat against Corbin.

How big of outliers were those? Tapia had four career homers in 271 at-bats coming into the game. He rarely faces left-handed pitchers because, as a left-handed hitter, he has a .641 career OPS against them. Strange doings from Tapia the last two nights.

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