In the immediate aftermath of Trea Turner’s injury in early April, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked if there was any consideration given to bringing top prospect Carter Kieboom up to play short in the majors while the Nationals waited for Turner’s broken right index finger to heal.
“We don’t feel that he’s ready to play shortstop in the big leagues on an everyday level at this time,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies in an April 3rd interview.
“We want to get Boomer some more reps at shortstop and second base in Triple-A and he’s not too far away, but he’s just not ready just yet.”
When they finally did call Kieboom up to make his MLB debut, after a couple weeks of underwhelming play by Wilmer Difo at short, Rizzo said he expected there to be some growing pains.
“He’s got a high baseball IQ,” Rizzo said, as quoted by ESPN’s Eddie Matz.
“He really knows how to play the game. There’s going to be a learning curve. There’s going to be hiccups. We think we have a special 21-year-old player that we think is going to allow us to compete and assists us in winning some games.”
Rizzo also talked about the decision to turn to Kieboom when they did.
“We wanted to get him some Triple-A at bats under his belt,” Rizzo said. “He’s performed admirably at the Triple-A level. With Trea still being weeks away, not months, but weeks away, we felt that it not only will get one of our best prospect’s feet wet in the big leagues, give him some experience, but it also strengthens a strength of ours in putting Wilmer Difo back into a more comfortable role of being that super-utility player that can play multiple positions and help us off the bench.
“We are excited to see him in his big-league debut and like we do usually with our top prospects, he’s going to play a lot and we’re going to be excited to see him perform.“
Kieboom got off to a strong start at the plate, with three hits and two home runs in his first three games, but he’s struggled since, with the bat and in the field.
After last night’s 0 for 4 in the series opener in Milwaukee, the shortstop’s 2 for 27 over the last eight games (.074/.167/.074) with three walks and 11 Ks in 30 plate appearances, and a total of four errors at short to go along with some mistakes that weren’t ruled errors in the last few weeks.
He’s just — I think he’s pressing a little bit,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters after the 5-3 loss in the first of three the Brewers, “and he’s gotta just play the game like he knows he can, — we know he can. So he’s just got to slow everything down, and just take one step at a time.”
“The way I’ve been playing has been unacceptable,” Kieboom stated unequivocally after the game last night, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“I mean, by all means there are all these plays I’ve missed, or I need to make and I usually do make. There’s no excuses as to why they’re not being made. It’s just the fact of the matter is: That’s what’s happened, and all I can do is learn from it and better myself going forward.”
“What people have seen isn’t me as a baseball player, isn’t me at all,” he added. “I can’t wait ‘til I’m myself again.”
Martinez talked after giving Kieboom a game off recently, about the game speeding up on the young infielder. How does he go about slowing things down?
“I don’t have the answer to that, I really don’t,” Martinez said. “I mean every guy is different.
“I’ll be honest with you,” he continued, “I came up at 21, and it happened to me, and the game just gets sped up, sped up, and it took me a while until I figured it out, and then when I finally realized, ‘Hey you know what, I can play here,’ things started turning around.”
Will Kieboom get an opportunity to turn it around in the big leagues? Or will he get sent to Triple-A to rebuild his confidence for the next opportunity?