SAN DIEGO — Juan Soto arrived at Petco Park and vowed to bring “good vibes” to the San Diego Padres and warned opposing teams.
The takeover of the 23-year-old generational talent in what may be the biggest Deadline deal ever has energized the Padres and their long-suffering fans, and there is more to come.
Soto and Josh Bell joined a lineup Wednesday currently being anchored by All-Star hitter Manny Machado. Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr is expected to return within weeks after suffering a broken left wrist.
When that lineup comes out on the field, “it’s going to be really exciting. It’s going to be really tough to come through and I wish the other pitchers the best of luck,” Soto said with a laugh at an introductory press conference.
A few hours later, Soto and the rest of the new-look Padres quickly lived up to the slugger’s words.
Brandon Drury, acquired in a deadline deal with the Reds on Tuesday, hit a grand slam on his first at-bat, Soto went 1-3 with two walks and Bell scored two walks and two runs as San Diego beat Colorado 9 -1.
The sell-out crowd gave Soto a standing ovation as he ran to his right field position in the first inning and then again when he got to the plate at the end of the inning.
“It feels very cool. It brings a lot of emotions for me,” said Soto. “It feels great how they cheered me on. They gave us the energy to go out there and play hard.”
He walked four pitches in his first at-bat. Machado doubled behind him, Bell also went, and then Drury became the fifth player in the expansion era (since 1961) to score a grand slam in his first plate appearance with a team, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
“I was just running on adrenaline,” Drury said. “The fans were incredible tonight. First on bat, with loaded bases, I just ran on pure adrenaline. I was really excited to be here. It was something very special for me.”
It all added up to a successful first night for the Padres, who hold the NL’s second wildcard spot while sitting 11½ games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers after Wednesday’s win in the NL West.
Soto, one of the game’s best young players, said before the game he was happy Bell was included in the trade. The two were flown to San Diego on a private jet Tuesday night.
“For me, I never realized that I would be traded together. I was probably thinking for myself,” Soto said. “When I realized I was coming with Josh we have a great relationship and I was more excited and excited because he’s coming and I know what kind of guy he is and what he brings to the table. I’m beyond excited to share another clubhouse with him.”
Soto contributed to the Nationals’ first World Series title in 2019, then hit .351 in 2020 to win the NL title in batting. He’s in his second straight All-Star season and now he and Bell have joined a team whose playoff chances have increased tremendously.
Soto said all conversations with Padre’s general manager AJ Preller and his new team-mates had been: ‘Let’s win, let’s put the good energy into the clubhouse and the stadium, just come here and try to win. Try to bring my 2019 experience as a World Series Champion to bear here in San Diego.
“I will do that, it’s been on my mind since I saw the trade yesterday. We’ll try, try to make it to the last standing team.”
Soto thinks he’s joining a World Series contender.
“Yes, definitely,” he said. “This team has everything it takes to win a World Series.”
San Diego last played in the World Series in 1998 when it was defeated by the New York Yankees.
Soto is signed for two seasons beyond this year and said he’s not thinking about anything after that.
“I only think about winning,” he said. “I’m just coming to this clubhouse to bring with me the energy I have, all the good vibes I need to bring here to win.”
Soto and Bell come from the team with the worst record in baseball to one that has arched its postseason chances.
“It feels really good,” said Soto. “It feels really pumped to be here. Just going from a team that doesn’t have a chance to get all the way here, it’s a great feeling, a new vibe, it’s a fresh start for me. It’s a new beginning, a new feeling, get out there and give more than I have.”
Bell said: “Obviously we’re putting our hearts and souls into this game no matter where we are. … But it’s a bit of extra fuel in the fire to be here and be on the hunt and have a reason to show up a little bit earlier each day to get the job done that we need to get done. I am definitely looking forward to having a new opportunity here.”
Soto and Tatis, who is also 23, have known each other since they played together in the Dominican Prospect League.
“This is my boy, my hometown boy,” Tatis said Tuesday. “I mean, we’ve played together since we were 15, 16. And now we’re on the same team. It’s crazy.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34343890/juan-soto-pumped-join-stacked-san-diego-padres-lineup-wishes-opposing-pitchers-good-luck Juan Soto ‘pumped’ to join stacked San Diego Padres lineup, which roughs up Colorado Rockies in slugger’s debut