Carter Kieboom talked after going 2 for 4 with a double in the Nationals’ 7-6 loss to the Phillies on Thursday afternoon about finally feeling comfortable at the plate in the majors after he struggled offensively in a short stint in 2019, in 2020’s 60-game season, and again early this year.
What changed for the 23-year-old infielder, who went into Saturday’s game with a six-game hit streak and hits in eight of his last nine?
“Just getting ready to hit,” Kieboom said.
“I’ve been trying to get ready to hit for the last year and a half and I think I’m finally ready to hit.
“It was tough for a little while, and then I think I would say the last fly ball I hit — I don’t know, when we were playing the Cubs, hit one to left-center, and then from there it’s kind of been — I felt something kind of different, and then from there, just taking that same feel to every single at bat now and I think that’s been the biggest difference.”
“He’s made a really great improvement with getting his swing off early, getting a pitch in the strike zone and really being aggressive early,” manager Davey Martinez said on Saturday afternoon.
“The one thing that we talked to him about, because he has such a great eye, is continue to take his walks as well, and stay in the strike zone.
“If he can do that, I think this kid can hit somewhere in the middle or sixth or seventh in our lineup consistently, because as you can see, when he does, he’s been putting the ball in play a lot, and he’s getting his hits, but I think him driving the ball is going to come fairly quickly if he continues to do what he’s doing right now.”
Kieboom ended up going 0 for 4 with a strikeout in last night’s win, so his streak is over, but he has started to turn things around at the plate, and things aren’t moving fast on him anymore, as they were when he was trying to get straightened out.
“I just feel like I’m in control in the batter’s box now,” he explained.
“I feel like I’m giving myself a huge chance to succeed at this point, versus in the past I was scuffling and I wasn’t driving the baseball. So, I’m ready to hit now, and in terms of being comfortable and slowing it down, I think just experience, being up here last year and a little bit the year before, and being around all these guys all the time in Spring Training, just gives you a sense of being comfortable. So yeah, I feel a lot better, and I think that’s just because of being ready to hit and as well as being up here for a couple years now.”
Kieboom and his teammates will try to take 2 of 3 in Atlanta when they wrap up their series in this afternoon’s 1:20 PM finale in Truist Park.
HERE’S THE NATIONALS’ LINEUP FOR THE 3RD OF 3 WITH THE BRAVES:
NOTES: Yes, you read that right, Josh Bell is playing right field today. As you may or may not know, he’s been working out in the outfield for weeks now, in the event that Davey Martinez wanted to ever get Bell and Zimmerman’s bats in the lineup against a left-handed starter, so with Max Fried on the mound for the Braves today, Martinez decided to give it a shot.
“I wanted to get him and Zim in the lineup today, and like I said, I thought this might happen but he’s going to play some right field today,” Martinez explained.
While he was doing a lot of work in left field in Nationals Park, Martinez said Bell is fine with playing right field.
“He’s played right field in the past,” Martinez added. “That’s where he played in the minor leagues. We talked to him about it, he’s comfortable playing right field, so being also too, the ballpark that we’re playing in it’s a shorter distance to the wall, playing the ball off the wall.”
His advice for Bell before heading out there to play the outfielder for the first time in the majors since 2016, when he played 16 games in right for Pittsburgh?
“I just told him, I said, just keep things simple, catch the ball, keep the ball in front of him,” the manager said. “And he gets the ball, just hit the cutoff man. Try to get to the ball as quick as he can. The big thing, like I explained to him is to get Zim in there along with him against Fried today and try to get as many right-handed bats as we can.”