Juan Soto, in San Diego for 1st time since trade, goes deep in 2nd at-bat

It didn't take New York Yankees slugger Juan Soto long to show San Diego Padres fans what they are missing.

In his first game back to face San Diego since being traded to the Yankees in the offseason, Soto drove a third-inning high fastball from Yu Darvish over the right-center-field fence for his 14th homer of the year. It was the first of three no-doubt shots for the Yankees that inning off Darvish. Aaron Judge followed with a homer, and Giancarlo Stanton also had a two-run shot.

Soto's 423-foot homer gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead as they went on to win 8-0. Soto also walked in the fourth inning, flied out to the wall in right in the seventh and doubled in the ninth.

He described the third inning as "electric, fun. Definitely fun. It was pretty cool to see the guys coming through against a guy like that. It's huge."

The 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic was greeted with a mixture of boos from Padres fans and cheers from the many Yankees fans at Petco Park when the starting lineup was announced and each time he came to the plate.

"I wasn't expecting cheers or boos, but they did both," Soto said. "I was right in the middle. That was pretty cool. That's fine. I don't mind at all."

The Yankees are 37-4, including the playoffs, when Stanton and Judge homer in the same game and are 2-0 when Soto, Judge and Stanton all homer in the same game.

"It was pretty awesome, actually," manager Aaron Boone said of the third inning. "You get those moments every now and then in the regular season that are, 'Man, that was pretty cool.' When Juan kind of took the air out of it right there and Judgey follows it right up, and then here we go [Alex] Verdugo and then here we go Stanton, one of those cool ones during the season that you get to be a part of."

Soto left a note on the grass in right field after the eighth inning that his former teammate Fernando Tatis Jr. picked up and read when he took the field in the ninth.

Soto wouldn't say what the note said but added: "It was something cool. He enjoyed it because when I hit the double he looked at me, he was laughing about it."

In preparing for his first game at Petco Park since being traded to New York on Dec. 7, Soto said he thought San Diego is a great city for any big leaguer to play in for a long time.

"My time in San Diego was great. It was unbelievable," said Soto, who was involved in two blockbuster trades in just 16 months.

The Padres obtained Soto from the Nationals in an eight-player trade Aug. 2, 2022, after he turned down a 15-year, $440 million offer from Washington. The Padres envisioned having him for three playoff runs. Though they made a stirring run to the National League Championship Series in 2022, they were a major disappointment in 2023, when they missed the playoffs despite having baseball's third-highest payroll.

Soto said he was prepared to return to San Diego for this season.

But the death of free-spending owner Peter Seidler on Nov. 14 plunged the Padres into financial uncertainty. Looking to reset their luxury tax and needing to add pitching, they sent Soto to the Yankees in a seven-player trade.

"We never get the chance to keep talking a little bit farther with the Padres, but it was a great team, great fan base," Soto said. "But at the end of the day, we just couldn't get it done and just keep moving forward.

"Where I'm at, I'm more than happy where I'm at. I'm really excited."

The Yankees and Soto agreed Jan. 11 to a one-year, $31 million contract, breaking Shohei Ohtani's record for an arbitration-eligible player. Soto had a $23 million salary last year in his only full season with the Padres, and the outfielder can become a free agent after this season, when he will be 26.

Boone, part of the first family in baseball history to produce three generations of major league players, said the series should offer "a little added buzz with Juan being back here and the Yankees being in town."

"Obviously, this is a pretty wild fan base," said Boone, who was born in suburban La Mesa. "It's been such a popular scene here these last couple of years with the big-name people they've brought in. And I'm sure with us being here it's going to be a pretty cool environment, especially being on a weekend."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.