Carter Kieboom’s goal going into Spring Training was to get as many reps as possible at third base so that he could show the Washington Nationals’ brass he was up to the task of taking over at the hot corner this season.
“I grew up playing a lot of third base,” Kieboom told reporters when asked early in camp if he was more comfortable at the second or third base at this point in his development, since shortstop, his natural position, is currently Trea Turner’s spot.
“Obviously, at the professional level I don’t have very many reps at third base, as well as second base, I don’t have too much as compared to what some guys get, but I really feel comfortable at both of them.
“I look forward to showing everybody what I can do at both of them, especially at third base, in Spring Training. That’s something that I’ve really worked on this offseason, aside from the hitting and some second base, and still doing some stuff at shortstop, you never know, but third base is something I’m really looking forward to.”
His manager gave the infielder a vote of confidence that he’s capable to filling the void left by Anthony Rendon’s departure via free agency.
“I said this earlier this winter, Carter Kieboom comes into Spring Training having the third base job,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies early in Spring Training.
”He’s gotta earn it, but it’s his job, and I truly believe that. This kid’s special.”
“He put up really good numbers in the minor leagues,” Martinez added.
“He is learning a new position. He’s been working diligently every morning with [Bench coach] Tim Bogar and [Third base coach] Chip Hale on learning how to play the position. He’s gonna hit, his feet work, so it’s just a matter of just getting him out there and getting his reps.
”With that being said, somewhere along the line – whether it’s breaking camp – Carter Kieboom will be our third baseman.”
Kieboom was 7 for 30 (.233/.395/.300) with two doubles, seven walks, and nine Ks in 14 games, with at-times-shaky play in the field as he adjusted to third base before Major League Baseball brought an end to Spring Training amid concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
His manager said early last month that he didn’t put much stock in Spring numbers, but he liked what he saw from his 22-year-old infielder.
“I mean, I don’t base a lot of things on Spring Training,” Martinez explained in a March 2nd article, as quoted by MASN’s Pete Kerzel. “There’s guys that hit .450 in spring training and are career .210 hitters. But I just want him to relax, have fun and play. I told him, I said, ‘For me, you don’t have to impress anybody here.’ He’s 22 years old, getting an opportunity to play in the big leagues already. I said, ‘You’re doing awesome, so just go out there and have fun.’”
The COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic and MLB’s postponement of the start of the regular season threw wrench in the plan to get Kieboom as many reps as possible this Spring, however, so, GM Mike Rizzo was asked in a conference call with reporters on Monday afternoon, what the 2016 1st Round pick is doing to stay sharp while the baseball world is shut down awaiting some sort of resolution to the global health issue.
“He’s in the same situation as all of our 40-man roster guys,” Rizzo explained. “He’s working out on his own and staying in close contact with our hitting and positional coaches. I know [Bogar] has talked to him constantly about his defensive protocol and his defensive program, his throwing program, and [Hitting coach Kevin Long] and [Assistant Hitting Coach Pat Roessler] are obviously working on his hitting program.
“He’s in the same mode as the rest of our players, getting ready as best as they can, and when the bell rings, he like the rest of us will have to be prepared to hit the ground running and when the season starts, we’re going to take the best 26 or however many players we have allowed on the roster at that time north to begin the season.”