Juan Soto makes his San Diego Padres debut

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SAN DIEGO — Juan Soto sat in a rolling chair with a San Diego Padres brand on it and held up his leg, excessive sufficient that Fernando Tatis Jr. might see his red-and-white cleats from his chair a number of lockers away.

“Look at these!” Soto mentioned Wednesday, and Tatis chuckled on the mixture of the pink and white with Soto’s contemporary brown socks. Brown-and-gold cleats are anticipated quickly. But the primary day of the remainder of Juan Soto’s profession would come with a reminder of all these different days spent in Washington, a baseball world away.

“I by no means thought they’d do it. I used to be considering they’d attempt to maintain me and attempt to rebuild the workforce with me in it. It caught me abruptly,” Soto mentioned within the Padres’ clubhouse as he laced up the opposite cleat. The New York Mets had been beating up on the Nationals on a tv hanging a number of yards away. “Deep in my coronary heart, I used to be considering they would not do it.”

That Soto discovered himself there, joking with good friend and fellow younger celebrity Tatis, introducing himself to infielder Ha-Seong Kim with a “good to satisfy you” and speaking Max Scherzer’s repertoire with catcher Austin Nola, is a transformative growth for the workforce he left and the workforce he joined. It could show transformative for Soto and Josh Bell, too.

Nats commerce Juan Soto to Padres, a seismic transfer for the game and franchise

Not 24 hours after they boarded a San Diego-bound personal aircraft paid for by the Padres, Soto and Bell discovered themselves sandwiching celebrity Manny Machado in a contending workforce’s lineup below the California solar.

“Going from a workforce that has no likelihood to return all the best way right here, it is an awesome feeling,” Soto mentioned. “It’s a brand new begin for me. This yr, it is only a new begin, a brand new feeling to go on the market and provides extra that I’ve.”

Before both might fear about going on the market in any respect, each had been shuttled via Petco Park for social media shoots and introductory interviews, sitting alongside General Manager AJ Preller and proprietor Peter Seidler.

Preller launched Soto with a narrative concerning the time a Padres assistant common supervisor discovered the younger star was hitting in Point Loma, not distant. He had flown there after his profitable rookie season to work with a hitting coach, “engaged on his craft,” Preller mentioned. Preller remembered the workforce’s pursuit of Soto when he was a young person within the Dominican Republic — a pursuit that ended, he joked, with Preller score another person forward of him. But Preller pointed to that January hitting session as a second when he determined his workforce would do its finest to get him if it might.

Analysis: Padres GM AJ Preller, grasp of the large swing, simply took his largest swing but

The GM additionally joked that Bell — the slugging change hitter with an .877 on-base-plus-slugging share getting into Wednesday — was “not unhealthy for a throw-in” earlier than clarifying that Bell was way over that. From then on, Soto’s smile stole the afternoon. He flashed it when requested concerning the Padres’ lineup, which remains to be ready for Tatis to return again from harm and nonetheless ready for Machado to get sizzling once more.

“I want good luck to the opposite pitchers,” Soto mentioned with a chuckle.

He flashed it once more when he defined that pitcher Nick Martinez, who wore No. 22 with the Padres till a number of hours in the past, requested him for a fishing boat in trade for the quantity.

“He actually stunned me. I had by no means seen something like that. I’d seen a few guys attempting to get numbers and what that they had given away. But when he requested me for a ship, I used to be actually shocked and stunned,” Soto mentioned. “I assumed that was sort of an excessive amount of, however I attempted to clarify to him I’ll attempt to get him a very nice watch and he accepted.”

The implications of Soto discovering himself on this lineup after a calendar yr of being the first focus of each opponent’s recreation plan might prolong a lot additional than a number of extra smiles. His new supervisor, Bob Melvin, mentioned he is not constructive what order he’ll hit Soto, Machado and Bell — however he did count on Soto and Bell to really feel a distinction instantly, not merely due to the bats round them but additionally due to the vitality of Petco Park.

“I’m going to maintain taking my walks. I will not attempt to be a superhero,” Soto mentioned. “But undoubtedly it should be extra thrilling. It’s going to be extra alternatives to deliver guys residence. I’ll have extra probabilities to win video games.”

An individual near Soto mentioned he was rising demoralized at occasions with the Nationals, anxious {that a} irritating first half (he was hitting .246 on the time of the commerce — practically 50 factors shy of his profession common) would solely get extra irritating if Washington traded away everybody else however stored him. After the commerce, he expressed his pleasure concerning the likelihood to play “actual baseball” once more, that particular person mentioned.

Soto’s swagger by no means precisely wavered. But right here, with expertise and vitality round him once more, it simply may soar.

“We talked about it after I was speaking to those guys: They’re going to really feel the joy on this ballpark,” Melvin mentioned. “It’s all the time thrilling, however it’s most likely going to be taken to a different stage at the moment. We’ll all really feel that.”

Could the Nats have averted buying and selling Juan Soto? Your questions, answered.

Soto has by no means performed for a significant league supervisor not named Dave Martinez, and he’ll discover that, too. He admitted that saying goodbye to Martinez simply earlier than he left Nationals Park on Tuesday was one of many hardest elements of an extended day that started with him waking as much as a name from agent Scott Boras telling him a commerce was more likely to occur this time. Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo known as him, too, telling him nothing was official however one thing was within the works. He mentioned he was nonetheless stunned when it occurred, although Boras had defined to him the rationale for a deal, although he had come to know over the previous few months that nobody is resistant to the enterprise of baseball.

“I’ve no exhausting emotions in the direction of these guys. I nonetheless be ok with what they did for me. That’s the primary workforce, my first workforce, the workforce that makes me knowledgeable participant,” Soto mentioned. “They gave me the prospect to return to the large leagues. They made me an enormous leaguer. I’m all the time going to be pleased about that. No exhausting emotions for all this.”

Svrluga: The Juan Soto deal is heartbreaking. Now the hope can start.

Soto hopes some brown-and-gold cleats will arrive quickly. In the meantime, he pounded across the clubhouse in these red-and-white ones, shaking fingers with new teammates. At one level he paused and seemed to his proper, noticing Bell’s new locker throughout the clubhouse.

“JB!” he mentioned as he walked by, taking a barely extra circuitous route again to his personal locker than he most likely will per week from now.

When he ran onto the Petco Park subject for the primary time, he pointed to the followers within the stands as he used to at Nationals Park. He seemed slightly hesitant. So they did. But 4 pitches into his Padres profession, he was safely on first base. Five batters into his Padres profession, he had scored a run. After all, for Soto, house is a significant league batter’s field, no matter colour his cleats are as they shuffle via the dust.

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