Adam Eaton came close to reeling in a line drive to right off Joey Wendle’s bat in the bottom of the second inning of Wednesday afternoon’s game with the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field.
Eaton got the ball in his glove, but he cradled it close to his body as he fell, and his chin essentially hit his glove and knocked the ball loose. He landed hard on that play, and the immediate speculation on MASN’s broadcast of the game was that he might have gotten banged up on the play, after he stayed on the bench when his teammates headed to the field for the bottom of the fourth.
Washington’s manager, Davey Martinez, told reporters after the game the Nationals’ right fielder actually injured his left hand in the top of the second, when he tried to bunt on the first pitch he saw in a bases-loaded, two-out at bat.
“He actually hurt himself on the bunt,” Martinez said. “So he’s got a bruised finger. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Not well. Or good in baseball speak. Eaton was placed on the 10-Day Injured List today with a fractured left index finger, effectively ending the 31-year-old outfielder’s 2020 campaign.
Eaton put up a .226/.285/.384 line with 11 doubles, a triple, and four home runs in 41 games and 176 plate appearances this season, over which he walked 12 times and struck a total of 32 times, and was worth -0.4 fWAR.
It’s been a frustrating campaign for Eaton, who told reporters he struggled to find a rhythm at the plate. He said earlier this month that he was starting to get to a better place.
“Getting better. Getting better,” Eaton said after going 2 for 5 with a homer in a September 10th loss to Atlanta.
“It’s been a heck of a year,” he added with not a little hint of disdain for the 2020 campaign.
“People that have followed me throughout my career, I’ve never been a really fast starter.
“Just starting to get comfortable in there. Starting to see the ball a little better, and I’m sure I’ll feel great September 27th at the plate, just kind of how it’s going.”
September 27th is, of course, the final day of the regular season if the arch sarcasm wasn’t clear.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Eaton will be around for the expected peak of his ninth big league season.
The Nationals will have a decision to make before 2021. The club picked up a $9.5M club option for Eaton this past winter, coming off the team’s World Series win, but he’s got another club option at $10.5M for the ‘21 season, or a $1.5M buyout, and they’ll have to decide whether they want to bring the outfielder back for a fifth run in the nation’s capital after he was acquired in a 3-for-1 trade with Chicago (AL) in December of 2016 which sent pitchers Dane Dunning, Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez to the White Sox.