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Why did Washington Nationals send Carter Kieboom down?

In a surprising decision on Wednesday, the Nationals sent their 22-year-old third baseman to Fredericksburg, VA. Why did they do it?

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Baltimore Orioles v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Davey Martinez was asked in his pregame press conference on Wednesday afternoon if he thought 22-year-old third baseman Carter Kieboom, (whose 0 for 4 game on Tuesday night left him with a .200/.359/.200 line after 64 PAs this season), was fighting his own approach, in his own head, or pressing, as he drew walks (11), but struggled to hit for power, with no extra base hits, and 20 Ks over his first 17 games this season.

“A little bit. A little bit,” Martinez acknowledged. “As a young kid, you want to go out there, you want to impress, you want to help your team win, and then sometimes you get results-driven and you just want to get hits.

“You’ve got to go pitch-by-pitch, and try to get a good pitch to hit, and hit the ball hard, and you can’t control where they go, so hopefully we’ll figure something out for him and we’ll go from there.”

It wasn’t long after he made those comments that the Nationals announced they decided to option their 2016 1st Round pick to their Alternate Training Site in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

If the decision was already made at the time he spoke, Martinez managed to poker-face his way through that part of the Zoom call.

In hindsight, however, especially after his post-game comments last night, there were hints of where the Nationals’ brass was leaning.

“I talked to [GM Mike Rizzo],” Martinez said of the decision-making process.

“We thought about it, and he was struggling, and I want to protect him the best I can.

“I felt like yesterday, really yesterday, he was playing more for results, and when you start doing that, you start getting frustrated when you don’t get the hits.”

Kieboom did show some signs of frustration after one of the two double plays he grounded into on Tuesday, and the Nats decided to let him work out his issues at the plate in Virginia.

“We sent him down. He’s going to get tons of at bats. I told him, ‘Hey, you’re going to be our third baseman. I mean, we just want to get you right, we want to get your swing right,’” the third-year skipper (and former big league outfielder/first baseman) said.

“‘You’ve been playing third base really, really well,’” Martinez told Kieboom.

“I mean, he has really played well. So, ‘Just go down there and get your swing right. As soon as we deem that you’re ready, and you’re back to who you are, which is the guy that drives the ball to left-center field, drive the ball to right-center field, squares balls up, then you’ll be back here playing third base. So, keep your head up. You’re not the first young kid that went down.’”

Martinez said he shared his own history with his charge, telling Kieboom he too had his own struggles early in what ended up being a 16-year big league playing career.

“I told him my first year in the big leagues, when I came up, I hit .140. And I got sent down and I had to regroup, so a lot of us have been there, so you’ll be back. Just work hard and you’ll be back.”

Martinez actually finished his rookie campaign with a .139/.190/.194, but in his first taste of big league action that season (1986), before he got sent down, the Chicago Cubs’ third Round pick in 1983, went 8 for 67 (.119/.169/.179) with a double, home run, three walks and 15 Ks in 35 games (15 starts) and 71 plate appearances.

He was called up in June, sent down in early August, then returned to the big leagues late in the season, and after going 7 for 26 in seven games in September, he went 0 for 15 over his final 11 games that year.

In his first full campaign in 1987, Martinez put up a .292/.372/.418 line with 18 doubles, eight triples, and eight home runs in 142 games and 520 PAs.