Davey Martinez talked earlier in Spring Training 2.0 about what he and the Washington Nationals’ staff tasked Carter Kieboom with working on when baseball shut down back during the first Spring Training in mid-March.
“The biggest thing for him obviously was his defense,” Martinez said.
“We feel like he’s going to hit here. When he left [Bench Coach Tim Bogar] talked to him and [Third Base Coach] Chip [Hale] talked to him about his footwork, and really honing in on his footwork and getting his feet turned to where he’s going to throw at all times.
“So, I know he’s been working out. I know he’s hit tons, I know he’s faced live pitching.
“Try to keep in shape the best he can. Try to do some baseball activities as much as he can.
“So I’m looking forward to getting him back out here and getting him in the group and getting him ready.”
Kieboom, the Nationals’ 22-year-old, 2016 1st Round pick is expected to be the Nationals’ everyday third baseman right now, which Martinez confirmed after the long layoff, once everyone gathered back together in the nation’s capital.
“As of right now, yes. I anticipate in the 60-game season, he’s going to go out there and play every day.”
In a brief stint in the majors last season, Kieboom struggled, going 5 for 39 (.128/.209/.282) with two home runs, four walks, and 16 strikeouts over 11 games and 43 plate appearances, making a total of four errors in ten games in the field before he was sent back down to the minors for the remainder of 2019, which he finished with a .303/.409/.493 line, 24 doubles, three triples, and 16 home runs in 109 games and 494 PAs at Triple-A Fresno.
Over the weekend, Martinez said he’s liked what he seen from Kieboom early in Spring Training 2.0.
“He looks really good, he really does. I can tell that he took these last three months and really got some work done.
“His feet are working really well over there, and his hitting, he shortened his stride a little bit with his hitting. He’s a lot quicker to the baseball. The ball is coming off his bat, so far I like what I see a lot.”
Kieboom spoke to reporters this afternoon, after the club held their first sim game of Spring Training 2.0, and he was asked what he did to stay sharp while baseball was shut down.
“I finished camp, getting more and more reps, game reps, which were huge for me, over at the new position, to see balls off the bat differently,” Kieboom explained.
“In practice, the biggest thing was getting the feet in the right direction, and the footwork, and lining up throws in that way. In terms of practicing, obviously I couldn’t do any game stuff, but practice, I really didn’t stop. I was able to go get to a place, and just one on one with my guy back home and we didn’t stop. I hit, took ground balls, obviously I didn’t get to go out on the field very often, got to do that a couple times before I came out here, but it was — I feel very good.
“My arm feels good, my legs feel great right now, so getting back out there for the first time, taking them on the field and stuff like that again, it didn’t really feel like I missed a beat from Spring Training. I think the only thing that’s going to be different is getting the timing back for the hitting again, but I think that will come pretty quickly the more we see some pitchers here coming up.”
Getting a vote of confidence from his manager that he’ll get a shot to be the everyday third baseman, Kieboom said, means a lot to him.
“That’s awesome,” the infielder said, “... but I’ll be honest, the first thing that ran through my head was, ‘Let’s keep the job.’ It’s one thing to get one, but it’s another thing to keep it and progress that way, so that’s kind of where my head’s at right now.”
While everyone involved would probably have preferred to be playing baseball instead of being quarantined when the coronavirus shut everything down, Kieboom said he tried to make the most of the time he had off.
“I think it’s very easy to kind of throw the towel in and kind of get frustrated that we were so close to a season and then it all gets washed away the way it did,” he told reporters.
“But yeah, I think it kind of was a blessing in disguise, because I found some things that I was doing in Spring Training I didn’t really care for, from the offensive side, and the defensive side, and I could continue working on those, like the footwork. I got to keep working on my footwork, it bought me some more time to keep working on that and hone that craft, and offensively, the same thing, I got to make some adjustments, and kind of go back to the drawing board at home and work on those things. I’m always going to try to take the positives out of whatever situation is thrown our way, so it really wasn’t — I wouldn’t say I loved the time off, I would have much rather been playing baseball, but I feel like I made the most of that time I had off.”