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Washington Nationals’ outfield: How does Adam Eaton fit in when he returns to D.C.?

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Will Juan Soto go back to the minors? Will Michael A. Taylor go to the bench? What will the Nationals do when Adam Eaton is ready to return from the DL? Which could be today...

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Michael A. Taylor was 28 for 155 (.181/.249/.297) with nine doubles, three home runs, 14 walks, and 55 Ks on May 20th, after 45 games and 170 plate appearances. In 15 games since, the 27-year-old outfielder has gone 17 for 54 (.315/.373/.611) with six doubles, two triples, two home runs, five walks and 12 Ks in 59 PAs, leaving him at .215/.281/.378 this season.

After Taylor went 3 for 5 with a double, two runs scored, and three RBIs in the second of two with the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked to reporters about what he’s seen from his center fielder over the recent stretch of success with the bat.

“He’s been working with [Hitting Coach] Kevin [Long],” Martinez said, “... trying to get his swing a little shorter, trying to get him on time, and swinging at strikes, and it’s paid off.

“He’s swinging the ball a lot better.”

“Mechanically I feel pretty good right now and settling in to my approach, and I feel pretty comfortable at the plate,” Taylor told reporters after the win over the Rays.

Tampa Bay Rays v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Taylor also said that the vote of confidence he received from his manager recently, when Martinez said he considered the outfielder his everyday center fielder, has also helped to alleviate some of the pressure he was playing under.

“Definitely,” Taylor explained. “I think a big thing for me is not focusing on the results, so to know that I’m going to be in there the next day helps me go out there and just concentrate on swinging at good pitches and having quality at bats.”

Speaking of quality at bats, rookie outfielder Juan Soto has continued to put together some impressive plate appearances over his first 16 games in the majors.

Soto, 19, is 18 for 52 (.346/.443/.538) with four doubles, two homers, nine walks, and nine Ks in 61 PAs since he was called up from Double-A Harrisburg to make his MLB debut on 5/20.

The left-handed hitting outfielder, in a small sample size, has put up impressive splits, with a .350/.458/.750 line, two doubles, two homers, four walks, and one K in 24 PAs vs lefties thus far, and a .344/.432/.406 line, two doubles, five walks, and eight Ks vs right-handed starters in 37 PAs the majors.

Martinez chalked Soto’s success against left-handed pitching up to his ability, “... to lay off bad pitches, really.”

“I mean he knows the strike zone really well,” Martinez added, “... and he’s not afraid to take his walks and he’s not afraid to hit with two strikes, so with that combination he gives you a really good at bat.”

It’s not just Soto’s skipper who’s impressed with what the young outfielder has been able to do at his age, at this level.

Rays’ manager Kevin Cash told reporters, after watching Soto go 3 for 6 with a double, two walks, and four runs scored in Tampa Bays’ two-game visit to the nation’s capital, that he’d definitely made an impression.

“Talented young player,” Cash said. “I mean, what is he 19-20 years old? I can’t imagine too many guys coming up there and showing the type of comfort that he’s showed at the plate.

“He definitely looks the part. I don’t know a ton about him, I asked Rocco [Baldelli] through the series a little bit about him, but to be doing this at [19 years old] speaks volumes about how talented he is.”

Asked what, if anything, stood out during the series, Cash said, “probably all of his ABs. He was really good and put together — made our pitchers work. I don’t think it was specifically anything, I just think it was the comfort that he showed in the box.”

All of which makes the decision the Nationals will have to make when Adam Eaton, (who is eligible to come of the 60-Day DL today), returns to the majors, all the more difficult.

Martinez was asked, when Eaton headed out for the start of his rehab assignment, if the 29-year-old outfielder would be back in left field once he returned from the ankle injury which landed him on the DL back in April, and the subsequent surgery that prolonged his stint on the Disabled List.

“We haven’t really thought about it yet,” Martinez said at the time, “... just because [Eaton’s] not back, so as he gets closer we’ll start playing around with it and see what’s best for us.”

He added that decisions like this one qualified as “good problems” to have.

“It’s a very good problem right now, but like I said, until we get these guys back, I focus on the 25 guys we’ve got right here.”

At some point, likely in the near-future, if not today, a decision will have to be made. And don’t say, “Sit Bryce Harper.” Please?