Carter Kieboom played in 16 of the Washington Nationals’ first 24 games, starting in 15, but skipper Davey Martinez has been trying to keep Asdrúbal Cabrera’s bat in the lineup too at either third, first, or as the designated hitter.
Martinez pencilled Cabrera in at third base for the series finale with the Miami Marlins last night, telling reporters in a pregame Zoom call from Nationals Park, he wanted to be sure that the veteran infielder was back in there after a day off on Sunday.
“We’re trying to keep [Cabrera] in there,” Martinez explained.
“He’s been swinging the bat well. He’s a big part of the middle of our lineup. This guy has a knack of driving in runs. We need that right now.”
Cabrera, 34, started the night with a .267/.326/.523 line, five doubles, five home runs, and team-leading 17 RBIs in 23 games this season.
With Cabrera batting fifth and playing third, however, Kieboom sat, which is something the third-year skipper said has to happen occasionally, though he’s going to keep playing third base on a regular basis.
“With Carter,” Martinez said, “I’ve always said this, with young players, you want to try to put them in situations where they’re going to succeed most of the time, and he’s done well, he really has, so we’re going to continue to watch him. Same thing with Luis [García]. I gave him the day off the other day, he played yesterday, he’s going to play today. But we’ll get those guys in there, but Cabrera is a veteran guy that understands his role, his situation, and he’s doing really well. I had to give him a day off yesterday, he played two games before so I wanted to make sure I gave him a day off yesterday and the other guys they stepped up and we scored a bunch of runs, so that was kind of nice.”
Kieboom went 0 for 2 with two walks in the Nationals’ 9-3 win over the Marlins, scoring one run and forcing one in with a bases-loaded walk in a five-run fifth inning.
“I love the walks, man, especially when you’re young,” Martinez said on Sunday afternoon.
“Taking your walks is key in this league, and when you can do that, especially in a high-leverage situation like that, and be patient, that’s a good sign, that’s definitely a good sign.
“It was a good at bat for him, got the walk, got the RBI, but he turned it over to his teammate, which we like.
“And we always talk about how do you become a really good teammate, hey, that’s part of it, taking your walks, being a better baserunner for your teammates. Those things pump guys up and it goes a long way with these guys.”
That walk was Kieboom’s team-leading 11th, to go along with a .217/.383/.217 line, 10 hits (all singles), and 20 Ks in 60 PAs so far. [ed. note - “Trea Turner has 11 walks now too.”]
So, while his manager appreciates his approach, and his patience at the plate, he said that Kieboom also has to be willing to swing the bat when he gets something to hit.
“For me, and we talked about this with him, he takes a lot of pitches,” Martinez explained.
“We actually want him to be more aggressive,” the manager added, “especially with guys in scoring position, where he can start driving in some runs. But he does go deep in counts a lot. We want him to get ready to hit the first two pitches of each at bat, if they’re going to just throw a fastball right down the middle, just be ready for it. The fact that he’s got such a good eye though is going to help him, especially as a young hitter, establish himself.
“It works two ways. It’s good that he’s able to take his walks and he accepts his walks, and the other one is, especially when there’s runners in scoring position, we want him to be more aggressive. Especially hitting down at the bottom of the order, because he’s a good hitter. We want him to swing the bat and get as many swings as he possibly can.”
“We want him to be — not overly aggressive, but aggressive in the strike zone.”
The patience at the plate, as Martinez said, is a positive trait, which will help him, but he’s got to be aggressive too, when the opportunities are there.
“As you see, Juan [Soto] can be very patient, but yet he’s very aggressive too. If there’s a ball that’s in the strike zone that he deems that he can hit hard, he’s going to swing. We want Carter to do that. The other side of it, you talk about the other guy, Luis [García], we’re trying to teach him to accept his walks.
“He goes up there and he’s swinging from the on-deck circle sometimes. So we’re trying to get him to just get better pitches to hit, because he’s got really good bat-to-ball skills, I mean, he doesn’t walk a whole lot, but he puts a lot of balls in play. Probably balls that he shouldn’t put in play, so we’re trying to get him to understand, to recognize the strike zone for him and accept his walks as well.”