Adam Eaton was 10 for 29 (.345/.424/.655) with three doubles and two home runs in eight games out of the gate this season before an ankle injury forced the 29-year-old outfielder onto the Disabled List.
A month after he went on the DL, Eaton, who tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee and suffered a high ankle sprain in April 2017, had surgery to remove a flap of cartilage in his left ankle, further delaying his return to the major league lineup.
This afternoon, Eaton finally got reinstated, after going 3 for 17 with a homer, three walks, and four Ks in five rehab games between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.
In order to make room on the roster for Eaton’s return, the Nationals optioned right-hander Wander Suero to Triple-A Syracuse.
Additionally, the Nats announced that they released outfielder Rafael Bautista.
Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked last night about pondering how he’d line things up once Eaton was available, with left fielder Juan Soto impressing since he was called up to the majors, Michael A. Taylor picking things up at the plate, and Bryce Harper leading all NL hitters in home runs, with 18 this season.
“For me, it’s a really good problem to have,” Martinez said.
“We’ve got a lot of good outfielders, so we’ll sit down and draw up how we want to do this and make sure they all play.”
The solution, at least for Eaton’s first game back, is apparently to put him in right, where he he had a .990 fld%, +22 DRS and a +22.5 UZR (earning a Gold Glove nomination) in his final season with the White Sox in 2016 before Washington and Chicago pulled off a 3-for-1 deal that sent pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning to the South Side and brought Eaton to D.C.
Eaton played all three outfield positions in 2017 before suffering the season-ending injury, and left field exclusively before he went on the DL back in early April.
He’s played 385 games in center in his career, more than any other position, with 127 out in right.
Taylor’s on the bench in Eaton’s first game back, and Harper, who has played 121 games in center in his career, 92 of them in 2012, but none since 2015, shifts over to center field for now.
Martinez said he’s going to take things slowly with Eaton this time out to do what he can to make sure the outfielder stays on the field this time around.
“We definitely need to take care of him,” he explained. “Last time we thought he was okay.
“Obviously he wasn’t. So, we want to make sure that this time we have him for the rest of the season, so I talked to him today, he’s excited, I’m excited, he looks great, so we’ll see what happens going forward.”
Martinez told reporters today that he’s going to mix things up, with Michael A. Taylor back in against a lefty tomorrow, and the Harper in center thing something they’ll do from time-to-time going forward according to reports on Twitter out of his pregame presser today.
Harper’s said to be all-in on playing center. Eaton’s just excited to get back at it, with plenty of time to contribute to the cause after all the injury issues of the past two seasons:
Eaton’s understandably excited to be healthy at last and able to contribute. “101 games left? That’s still a lot.”— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) June 9, 2018