Adam Eaton had himself one heck of a month of August, putting up a .329/.444/.622 line with five doubles, two triples, five homers, 13 walks, 15 Ks, and 26 runs scored in 23 total games, 21 starts, and 101 plate appearances. Eaton talked about what was working at the plate, explaining that two years after suffering devastating knee and ankle injuries, and a year-plus after surgery on his ankle, he was finally healthy.
“I finally have legs underneath me,” Eaton explained to reporters. “I think that’s a big key. It’s hard to swing with one leg, I did that for two years and it wasn’t fun, so I think working with [Hitting Coach] Kevin [Long] and [Assistant Hitting Coach] Joe [Dillon] in the cage and just trying to get back to what I had in 2015-16, and even ‘14, just staying balanced, and like I said, my knee injury — I never thought I would say it, but two-plus years it’s bothered me, and kind of you know, trying to, it didn’t hurt, but of course just trying to iron out bad habits that I created over those two years.”
Unfortunately, the month ended with Eaton taking a fastball from Baltimore Orioles’ starter Asher Wojciechowski off his front knee in last Wednesday’s series finale with the O’s in D.C.
He tried to pinch hit on Friday night, but after he walked, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez took him off the basepaths when he didn’t like what he saw from the outfielder.
Eaton sat out of Saturday and Sunday’s games against the Miami Marlins, but was penciled into the lineup for the series opener with the New York Mets on Monday afternoon, only to be lifted again after just two innings.
Martinez was asked what his level of concern was after the loss in the first of three with the Mets.
“A little concern,” the second-year skipper acknowledged. “He got loose, felt good, said it didn’t bother him, and then all of a sudden it just kept getting tighter and tighter as a couple of innings went by, and he said it was more — once he was moving around he was okay, but just standing still, it got tight, and what got me nervous was he said it was more the back of his knee, which is a hamstring deal, so I didn’t want to take any chances. We’re going to see where we’re at, I think we’re going to get him an MRI and go from there, see where he’s at.”
Eaton had the MRI yesterday, and the diagnosis was a “bad bone bruise” in his right knee.
“The biggest thing yesterday that scared me more than anything was where he was tight,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“It was behind his knee. Luckily, it has nothing to do with his hamstring, which I thought. That’s part of your hamstring back there. That’s what scared me. He was like: ‘Well, maybe I can go back out there,’ and I was like: ‘No, you’re not.’ We took him out, and that was that.
“These things, because it’s his knee and he’s got to bend it and move it, it might take a little time. But hopefully not that long.”
The issue, the Nationals’ manager explained, is that it’s tightening up on Eaton when he runs.
“He can warm up and he feels good. And all of a sudden he sits down and it just stiffens up on him. So I told him in an emergency situation if he can pinch-hit, that would be great. He said he could do that.”
Trea Turner, who’s hit in front of Eaton most of the season and missed time early this year when he suffered a broken right index finger when he was hit on the hand trying to bunt, talked to reporters today about picking his teammate up and getting it done until he’s able to return.
“You can’t control some times where the ball hits you,” Turner sympathized.
“It’s coming so hard, and a half-inch the other way or up or down and he may be fine. It’s unfortunate, obviously I’ve been through that in the last few years, I’ve had that happen to me twice, where you try to get out of the way, but it just gets you in a bad spot, and you’ve got to hang with’em and we’ve got to pick him up. We’re going to need to play good without him, because he’s been such a big part of our ballclub and I don’t know how long he’ll be — hopefully, maybe not too long, I don’t what the word is, but we need to step up and fill in that role because he’s had huge games for us all year and he’s very important to us.”
“He wants to play,” Martinez told reporters.
“I told him: ‘We tried it yesterday, and you got stiff and your knee swelled up. So let’s back down a little bit. If you’re capable of hitting in a pinch, you can pinch-hit.’”