Davey Martinez was asked last week if the decision to put Starlin Castro at third base for the first time this spring might inspire Carter Kieboom to figure things out at the plate, after the 23-year-old’s struggles at the plate continued this spring.
Would the possibility of the third base job going to another player light a fire under the Nats’ 2016 1st Round pick, whose first opportunities in the majors have not yet produced the sort of numbers he put up in the minors on the way up.
“Carter just needs to worry about getting himself ready for the season,” Martinez said.
“That’s what I want him to focus on, and continue to gain confidence over there, and every time he’s over there he seems to be doing that.”
The Nationals, apparently, didn’t see enough improvement from Kieboom this spring. So he was optioned out to Triple-A Rochester this past weekend, which, in reality, means he will head to Fredericksburg, Virginia and the club’s Alternate Site this week when the rest of the team heads to D.C. for the start of the big league season.
“He was fine. He was fine,” Martinez said when asked how Kieboom took the no-doubt disappointing news on Saturday. “He understood. He thanked me for the opportunity.
“But I told him, I said, this is not the last time I’m going to see him and believe me — I said we’ll be together for a long time, so just go down there, the biggest thing is to get to work right away and stay positive, and I told him it’s going to happen.”
“I understand. I get it,” Kieboom said on Sunday afternoon, around 24 hours after he learned he was being optioned to Triple-A.
“We have to win and I want our team to win, and you know what, I was not in the position to, I don’t think, give ourselves at that moment, at this moment in time, give ourselves the best opportunity to win the games if — I need to go down and get my swing right — I know I’m a guy that can help this team win a lot of ballgames. But right now, I definitely still have some things that I want to work on and get to that point where it’s an everyday thing for me again, and it’s in there. I know it’s in there, and I feel it.”
Kieboom also said he knows what he needs to do when he gets to Fredericksburg, which is to just keep grinding away at the work he’s been doing.
“It’s just a matter of doing it every day, and I’m excited. This isn’t — yeah, it’s frustrating to be sent down and stuff like that, of course, but at the same time, I look at it as an opportunity to go down there, relax, and get right and take what’s offered to me, and I know I’ll be back up there with the team and helping them out, so there’s no frustration towards it. I completely understand the move and the decision they made, and direction they went, so it’s part of it, and I’ll be better for it.”
Kieboom’s immediate reaction to the news, was to pick up a bat and get back to work as he did on Saturday, and again on Sunday, in a three-hours-ish session with his hitting coach in Triple-A, Brian Daubach.
His focus, he said, was, “finding that swing that I always had.”
“I feel it,” Kieboom said. “It’s there, and I’m closer than I’ve ever been to getting back to that point. And you know, every day, honestly, it could be the day where it all syncs up. That’s the exciting part of it. And you know, I’m going to keep a good attitude, I’m going to do what I have to do, and if it takes a week, great, if it takes two weeks, takes a month, so be it. And I’m here to work, there’s no frustration, there’s no anger towards anything, it’s get better every single day and ultimately get back to what got you here and that’s what I was doing today.”
Kieboom has put up a .181/.309/.232 line in 44 games in the majors in 2019-20, and he went just 6 for 45 this spring (.133/.204/.222), with four walks and 17 Ks over 17 games before the decision to option him out was made over the weekend, but he was confident that he is not that far away from getting things straight at the plate.
“I think it’s just timing,” he explained, “and I’m seeing the baseball a lot better this year than I saw it last year with everything, and even if I make a poor decision, I’m able to make that adjustment a lot quicker right now and get to where I would like to be, but it’s a matter of repeating that, and I can feel it one at bat, or I could feel it 2-3 at bats, and then the fourth at bat you don’t feel it. And I think that’s the frustrating part with this going on right now.
“I feel, “I have it, I have it, I have it,’ and then it’s gone. And it could be gone the next round, and it’s like, ‘That’s weird. That’s not usually who I am as a player.’ I always just continue to do it and had it and stuck with those few thoughts, and it’s been consistent. It sucks that it happens. I said it earlier this year. It happens and that’s fine.
“I don’t have any more frustration to give towards it, it’s just show up every day, get better, and get back to who I was.”