Washington Nationals’ outfielder Adam Eaton missed 53 games on the Disabled List with an ankle injury that eventually required surgery to remove a flap of cartilage from his left ankle, which he injured when he blew out his knee in April of 2017 and then re-injured on a play at the plate back on April 5th of this season. Eaton tested it in two games after that play, but eventually landed on the DL.
Two months later, the 29-year-old outfielder finally returned to the majors on Saturday, and he was ready for the chance to get back on the field in the big leagues after a brief stint in the minors.
“We tossed and turned about doing different things,” Davey Martinez explained when asked how he decided to go with Juan Soto in left, Bryce Harper in center, and Eaton in right field in the outfielder’s first game back.
“Adam is a really good right fielder. I’ve known that, I mean, I saw him play with the White Sox. I talked to Bryce about playing center and he was all-in, excited about it, so I said, ‘Why not.’ Let him go out there and have some fun. Gio [Gonzalez] is pitching, which typically the ball is on the ground, so let them go out there and just run around and have fun with it.”
“I’m excited,” Eaton said.
“I feel really way better than I did the first go-around, so excited to get back out there. I think my wife is excited for me to go back to work, my kids as well, so get me out of the house and let me go play the game that I love.
“So, very excited and hopefully I can contribute right off the bat.”
He did just that, taking a fastball off his elbow in his first trip to the plate, and scoring the first of seven runs the Nationals scored in a 7-5 win.
Eaton went 1 for 4 with two runs scored, singling and scoring the second time up, before grounding out in the third, flying out to center in the bottom of the fifth, and lining out to left in the seventh before Martinez double-switched him out of the game.
“He looked great,” Martinez said after the win. “He really did. Took him out there just to double switch, that’s it, but he said he felt great.”
“It was good,” Eaton told reporters. “We didn’t really waste any time, getting on base and was able to have some fun out there, and I got to third base my second at bat, and [third base coach Bobby Henley] asked how I felt and I said, ‘I’m about Round 6 with Mike Tyson.’
“I feel like I was so tired, and I’m so out of shape it’s unbelievable, so I’m pretty tired right now as well. It’s good though.
“Knee reacted really well, felt like I had a play behind me, play in the corner, and then swung the bat alright, so happy day as well as a good team win there.”
Martinez talked after the game about what Eaton brought to the top of the lineup now that he’s back.
“You see him,” Martinez said. “He got on base a bunch of times for us, and then he makes things go. So it’s nice. With him and Trea [Turner] up there they make things happen. Plus he gives us a little bit more length in our lineup, so it’s nice.”
Eaton said before the game he was excited to be back, but aware that the Nationals would take a cautious approach as they worked him in.
“Got a righty today, lefty tomorrow, and I know they’re going to take their time with me a little bit,” Eaton said, “... but hopefully they let me hit the ground running, so to speak, and get out there as much as I can.”