Juan Soto at center stage again in return to L.A. as Dodgers’ win streak ends
Juan Soto and Trea Turner both used the word “crazy” Monday afternoon.
For Soto, crazy that he could be traded by the Washington Nationals before the Aug. 2 deadline.
To Turner, crazy that the Dodgers seem to be one of his potential — and maybe most likely — landing spots.
“I don’t know if I can recruit,” said Turner, a former teammate of Soto’s on the Nationals until getting dealt to the Dodgers last year, “but I’m a Dodger, and hopefully he’s a Dodger as well.”
For now, Soto remains a National, returning to Dodger Stadium this week as a visitor.
In the Nationals’ 4-1 win Monday night, however, the 23-year-old star outfielder was treated like anything but.
As the Nationals’ lineup was read over the public address system before the game, Soto’s name was met with a round of applause.
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When he stepped on deck in the top of the first inning, almost every person in the first row in front of him whipped out a phone to take a picture.
Then, when he came to the plate, he was greeted by another ovation and a smattering of hopeful chants from a crowd of 48,647 at Chavez Ravine:
“Fut-ure Dod-ger! Fut-ure Dod-ger!”
It was the same chant Soto received during the All-Star Game last week, when a group of fans in Dodger Stadium’s outfield pavilion caught his attention while he stood in center field.
“It was hard to miss,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who was in the dugout during the game.
“I mean, it sounds pretty fun,” he said with a soft grin. “But at the end of the day, I’m glad they’re cheering for me. I don’t mind whatever they’re saying. They’re saying something good. I think I’m just enjoying it.”
Soto, who went two for four with a walk and a key two-run triple to help the Nationals (33-65) end the Dodgers’ eight-game winning streak, hasn’t enjoyed much else about the last week since news surfaced that he had rejected a 14-year, $440-million contract extension from the Nationals and thus would be made available for a possible trade.
The second-time All-Star faced questions about his future throughout last week’s Midsummer Classic festivities — though still managed to win the home run derby, the trophy for which was waiting for him at Dodger Stadium when he returned Monday.
Rumors continued to swirl when the Nationals’ season resumed this week — a long-lost campaign for a franchise that won the World Series in 2019 but entered this week with the worst record in the majors.
“It’s been crazy, things that I never think were going to happen to me,” Soto said Monday, answering questions again in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. “First time this happens to me, so it’s been tough.”
Soto claimed he has tried not to think much about the trade speculation, including the possibility of being dealt to the Dodgers (64-31).
“I never think about that because I never see myself in any of that,” Soto said. “I’ve always been loyal to the Nationals. I’ve always been there for them. As you see, everywhere I’m going they try to pull me out of my team. But I just keep staying in touch with the Nationals because that’s where I am right now and that’s where I’m going to be loyal until they don’t want me anymore here.”
Someone who can relate: Turner, who faced similar uncertainty a year ago before being sent to Los Angeles along with Max Scherzer in the biggest trade of last summer’s deadline.
Turner and Soto have kept in close touch, though their conversations lately haven’t delved much into Soto’s uncertain future.
“He’s pretty secretive,” Turner joked with reporters before the game.
“So I gotta try to piece it together myself.”
Turner does know it hasn’t been easy for his old teammate.
“It stinks for him,” Turner said. “But he learns every year. That’s the business side. Last year, I know he was really mad when everyone got traded. He learned that’s the business. It is what it is, but hopefully it works out for both sides.”
Turner would like to see the Dodgers benefit too.
Even for a team currently in first place — thanks in large part to contributions from recent superstar acquisitions such as Turner, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman — the thought of adding Soto has been met with excitement in the clubhouse.
Using runs created for a different way to look at the Dodgers offense.
“I think I learned last year a little bit, if there’s a good player available, the Dodgers are gonna be considered a spot, for numerous reasons,” Turner said. “It’s just crazy … the talent of players all here.”
Turner did hedge the possibility, noting, “I don’t believe a lot of things till it happens, so you hear all these things, but until it happens …”
However, as Turner spoke in the dugout a couple of hours before first pitch, he looked out on the field, where Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was standing nearby.
“I’m pretty sure if that man right there can acquire him for the right price,” Turner said, “he will do it in a heartbeat. Which is a cool part about playing here. If those people are available, they’ll be here.”
Justin Turner (rib-area discomfort) went through baseball activities and could be back in the lineup by Tuesday or Wednesday. … Chris Taylor (foot fracture) ran for the first time since getting hurt this month and is scheduled to begin a rehabilitation assignment early next week.]
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