Asked for his thoughts on 27-year-old catcher Spencer Kieboom during the series in Yankee Stadium last month, Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said the Nats’ 2012 5th Round pick was up in the majors soaking it all in, and he liked the way Kieboom was working to keep learning.
“He absorbs,” Martinez said. “He’s like a sponge. He’s learning all the pitchers, he calls good games. He’s very intense. He’s into it. He’s really into it. And his at bats are getting better.
“He loves to play the game, and when he gets an opportunity to play, I know what I’m going to get from him, and he tries to help us win.”
“Soaking it in is one way to put it,” Kieboom said when asked about his skipper’s comments and if they rang true this past Saturday afternoon.
“To me it’s more being myself and being a teammate,” he qualified.
“To me that’s part of being a teammate. If you were traded tomorrow, you’d have to do the same thing no matter where you go, or if you were in Double-A and moved up to Triple-A like last year. You’re getting to know guys, they’re getting to know you, and to me that’s part of it, and meanwhile while all that’s happening you are learning different things as you go, no matter what.
“The term you used, soak it up, that’s good.”
What he’s learning though, he explained, he’s learning by just doing the job, picking things up as he goes along and, as Martinez put it, absorbing everything that’s thrown his way.
“To say like you’re actively — like ‘Today, I’m going to learn and do this,’ I think is not an accurate picture,” Kieboom said.
“For me it’s about being myself and just picking things up as you go. It’s not like a classroom where you sit down and today this is a lesson. You go through your day, you do your routine and you talk to everybody and you have your thing that you do, and meanwhile while all that’s happening you start picking up different things.
“You start picking up on different things that you like, different things that you see, and have conversations that are happening, not being forced, and to me that’s best way to go about it.”
Kieboom, who debuted late in September 2016, appearing in one game that season, has been up in the majors since May 19th, his first sustained stretch in the big leagues.
He was 10 for 46 with two doubles, five walks, and 10 Ks going into Saturday night’s game against the Miami Marlins, but his offensive game is a secondary concern for the backstop.
“Hitting to me is one of those things where I work on it and it’s a feel thing and it takes care of itself,” Kieboom said.
“My goal is to put together a competitive at bat every single time, and if I can do that — and that’s not going to happen every time, you’re going to get pitches called on you that maybe you don’t agree with or a guy puts it in a perfect spot, but at the same time, if I get a mistake and I can do something with it, that’s great. Or if I can go up there and see five, six, seven, eight pitches, that’s another accomplishment in itself. If you want me to safety squeeze, whatever it might be, I’m down for the challenge and up for the task.”
His real goal, however, is to guide his pitchers as well as he can and take advantage of the opportunities he’s given.
“It’s been great to me so far,” he said. “I’d like to stay up here, it’s been fun.
“I feel like the opportunities I’ve had, I’ve feel like I’ve made the most of them. My goal every day is truly is just to win. I just want to win.
“If we can win, I don’t care if I went 0 for 5. If we don’t win and I go 2 for 4, it’s great, but we didn’t win, at the end of the day, that’s all I care about.
“I’d rather give up no runs and go 0 for 20 my next couple games, catch four shutouts, any day than get some hits.”
Before Friday night’s game, the Nationals’ manager told reporters that he was going to go with Kieboom catching Gio Gonzalez because he liked the way they communicated.
“I know Kieboom,” Martinez said, “he tends to be able to communicate for some reason with Gio a lot, I mean he really communicates with him a lot.”
Kieboom’s take on whether he has exceptional levels of communication with the lone left-hander in the Nationals’ rotation?
“I think Gio does a great job,” he said. “I think all these guys here do a really good job, and to me it’s about communication in-between innings, and talking to pitchers and having a game plan for the next three up in the lineup, going about it like that, and the more you’re on the same page, it’s amazing, the better it is. You’re going to have those days, don’t get me wrong, where you’re getting boat-raced or whatever it might be, I mean that’s the inevitable, there’s too many games for that not to happen, but if you can reduce that or instead of giving up four, give up two, or instead of giving up three give up one, whatever it might be, and if that’s just based off of conversation and being on the same page, to me that’s great.”
BONUS QUOTES: If you somehow didn’t know, Spencer’s brother Carter Kieboom, is a 2016 1st Round pick by the Nationals who’s currently tearing it up at Double-A in the organization, and he’ll be playing in Nationals Park next Sunday in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. So we asked Spencer what he thought of the job his younger brother has done so far in 2018.
We should note, Carter has a .310/.391/.495 line in 79 games between the Potomac Nationals (61G) and Harrisburg Senators (17G) this season, and a .351/.407/.500 line, with 5 doubles, 2 HRs in 18 G, 81 PAs since the move to Double-A.
“I’m surprised he’s not hitting .500 right now,” his older brother joked. “I think he’s underachieving.’
“No, he’s doing great. And he’s having fun. He’s got an incredible mindset, and he doesn’t let the game get to him, and he’s doing good and I’m proud of him and it’s pretty sweet. It’s fun — I’m not watching, but it’s fun to follow. One of the first things I do after we’re done here is I look at their box score every single time.”
And the whole family is sharing in the excitement of Carter playing in the Futures Game.
“He’s pumped man. He’s excited. He’s a character. I’m excited for him, I’m excited for my parents too, they’re going to be up here, my brother is going to be up here as well, my middle brother, Trevor, so it’s exciting I’m happy for him I’m excited to see him up. He deserves it. He’s earned it. He’s been playing awesome.”