Carter Kieboom was called back up to the majors on Saturday night, but he didn’t start in the second of three with the Baltimore Orioles in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
In Sunday afternoon’s series finale with the O’s, Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez sent Kieboom out there against a left-handed starter.
“I wanted to give him a start today against a left-handed pitcher. Let him go out there and let him have some fun and see where’s at. I don’t want him just to come back here and just sit there,” Martinez said.
Martinez did send Kieboom up for a pinch hit appearance on Saturday, and he ended up with two plate appearances, getting hit the first time up and then striking out.
“He got a couple pinch hit at bats yesterday, so just wanted to get him four at bats today,” Martinez said on Sunday morning.
Kieboom, 23, started the spring battling for the everyday spot at third base in D.C., after he struggled at the plate in 2020’s 60-game campaign, but when he once again had issues at the plate, he ended up getting optioned to Triple-A Rochester to start the season.
The COVID outbreak with the team led to Kieboom coming back up for the first few games of the season, but he returned to Triple-A after that, and he’s posted a .236/.376/.385 line, seven doubles, and five home runs in 44 games and 181 plate appearances before he got called back up following a knee issue that kept him from potentially returning when there was a need earlier this month.
Did his manager see anything different in a small sample from Kieboom’s first few plate appearances Saturday night?
“I actually saw — I saw some bat speed in there on a couple swings that he took,” he said.
“So, that was kind of nice. So like I said, today we’ll give him a chance to go out there and play, and play some third base.”
Martinez said on Sunday that he didn’t read too much into Kieboom striking out in his ninth inning at bat the night before, when he went down swinging at a fastball and two sliders, all out of the zone.
“I thought he was trying to be aggressive,” the fourth-year skipper said. “Remember this is his first time back, and [top] of the ninth inning, he was being aggressive. I mean, the guy [Dillon Tate] had a pretty good slider, if you watched, we missed a bunch of his sliders yesterday, so, but like I said, I’m going to give him an opportunity today to go out there and get four at bats, and see where he’s at.”
It’s been a tough couple years for the highly-regarded prospect, a 2016 1st Round pick who was the top infielder in the system as recently as 2020, when he was also ranked 21st in all of baseball by MLB.com’s Pipeline scouts before the ‘20 campaign. How has he handled the struggles in the majors, which have now continued to some degree at Triple-A?
“I talked to him yesterday,” Martinez said.
“He’s very confident. He’s a very confident kid. He feels like he belongs here, which is always good, now he’s just got to have some consistency up here and that’s what we always talk about with him. Not try to do too much. I know you come up here sometimes and you press and you try to do more than you’re capable of doing, I always tell him, I say, ‘Hey, you go out there and you be you. You hit the ball to right-center, left-center field. Just swing at strikes, take your walks, and put the ball in play and play good defense.
“But he’s — I talked to him yesterday, he feels good, the good thing is that he’s past his injury, his knee feels good, so he’s going to get an opportunity to play.”