Adam Eaton suffered what was eventually, after an X-ray, diagnosed as a fractured left index finger, on a bunt attempt in the top of the second inning this past Wednesday afternoon in Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field, but even though he knew what had happened, he didn’t come out until the fourth inning.
“I’ve been playing pretty pissed off lately,” Eaton explained on Friday afternoon, after he was placed on the 10-Day Injured List, effectively ending his fourth (and potentially final) season with the Washington Nationals.
“I think that had a lot to do with me staying out there,” the 31-year-old outfielder said of his frustration with the 2020 campaign overall.
“Because I was just ticked that I even had the opportunity for it to be hit. Like I said, just being irritated with how everything’s went, and just like I said, just trying to whatever it, and then kind of kept swelling up and the question was asked, ‘If there’s a runner on second base late in the game, can you make the throw?’ And I said, ‘I’m going to give it hell, but you never know what can come out.’ And with that answer I think it was best that they took me out. I knew it was broken, I’ve gotten my finger jammed, and I’ve actually broken multiple fingers, so I just kind of had a feeling it was that way, wasn’t real surprised by the X-ray.”
“He’s a gamer,” manager Davey Martinez said of Eaton’s stubborn refusal to come out even when he knew he had broken his finger.
“As I watched him, I saw him, I knew he got hit, I kept an eye on him, and I finally asked him, ‘Hey, if we had a guy on second base, and you need to throw somebody out, could you do it?’ And he kind of hesitated, and for me that was a [tell-tale sign] that he was hurt.
“I have to be smart for him as well as the rest of the guys on this team. I didn’t want him to do anything significantly wrong to his finger, especially if he had to dive or slide and he banged it up again to make it worse.”
Martinez, who got the first full, healthy, season out of Eaton in D.C. in 2019, when the club battled their way to the World Series and won it all, talked on Friday afternoon about the role the veteran right fielder played in getting the club to the top in his third season with the team after he was acquired in a late 2016 trade with the Chicago White Sox.
Eaton has a $10.5M club option for the 2021 campaign (or a $1.5M buyout), so he might end up a free agent this winter, but if he’s played his last game as a National, he made his mark.
“He’s one of the reasons why we did what we did last year,” Martinez said.
“He was healthy last year, and you could see what he can do when he’s fully healthy. He’s an unbelievable player, he’s a spark plug on this team. His teammates mean a lot to him, this organization means a lot to him, so moving forward, we don’t know what’s going to happen, hopefully there’s conversations with him, but that’s something that [GM Mike Rizzo] and myself have to sit down and decide at the end of the year. But I love him. He knows that.
“[He] knows how I feel about him. He’s a guy that gets guys fired up in that dugout and the clubhouse every day.
“It stinks that he had to go out like this with his finger, but hopefully he gets healthy.”
“It’s fitting for how my year has [gone] to end on that note,” Eaton said of the fractured finger and IL stint at the end of a frustrating 2020 campaign.
“On a personal level, with the contract next year, like I said, to do what I did this year and then to end up on the IL at the end the year is just as fitting as it could be.”
Eaton was asked if he thinks the front office executives in D.C. and around the league will take into account what an odd season this was when it comes time to talk about a 2021 deal.
“My god, I hope so,” he said with a laugh. “I hope so. I think when I’m on the field I feel like I’m pretty consistent as a player.”
“Not nearly as young and as fiery as I was maybe five years ago,” the nine-year veteran said.
“But I think when you put 150-plus games in front of me, and the player that I can be — I’m such a slow starter I think as well, if you look at my history, I think in the first 40 games I usually hit like .230 and then I kind of just take off and grind back.
“Once the pitchers get a little tired I get better for some reason. But like I said, I hope they do,” take the circumstances of this season into account. “I think there’s a lot of moving parts with that other than just 60 games and playing underneath some crazy circumstances. We missed out on a lot of time, a lot of games, and I think organizations are going to have — it’s going to be a different offseason. I’ll just put it that way, just as simple as I can put it.”
Looking toward the future, Eaton said he’s going to be happy to put this season behind him and move on.
“I think it’s been a wacky year, odd season. I don’t want to look too far ahead, because I’ll drive myself crazy with that, but this [Nationals’] organization has been nothing but good to me, from the security guard that greets me in the morning to the Lerner family, some of the best people I’ve ever met. And like I said, for a 60-game season to kind of, I guess, settle my fate for next year coming back is kind of — I don’t want to use the words — but it’s kind of crappy. So, like I said, I try to be as consistent as I can for this team when I’m on the field, and like I said, for 60 games, and to have a poor showing, and then for this [to end] the way it is, like I said, it’s an unfortunate, but like I said, it’s kind of how the year is going.”