3/16/22: Spring Training Day 4 - “Carter looks great. He really does. He did some things. He tweaked some things on his swing. So I’m looking forward to watching him compete in a game.”
“I talked to him, I said, ‘Hey, look you’re coming in here to win an every day job at third base, and you can do that.’ It’s totally up to him now, so he understands, he knows what he needs to do and we just want him to go out there and compete.” - Davey Martinez
Carter Kieboom, 25, posted solid numbers on the way up through the Washington Nationals’ system after he was selected in the first round of the 2016 Draft, but the infielder has struggled in limited exposure in a total of 106 major league games played since debuting in the big leagues in 2019, with a .197/.304/.285 line in 414 plate appearances in 2019-21.
The hope was Kieboom would turn things around this past season, and claim the third base job in D.C., but he ended up missing the entire season, with an announcement by Davey Martinez in May that the infielder would need Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right (throwing) elbow.
Kieboom was diagnosed with a flexor mass strain early in Spring Training, and when he started throwing again weeks later, he suffered the injury which required surgery.
“We tried to do it conservatively,” Martinez told reporters, in the third week of May, of the rehab process before the UCL tear, “which he wanted to try first, and he felt really good. And then he started throwing and tried to really get it going, and he said the pain came back. At this point, we thought it was best, and he thought it was best, that he does have the surgery to fix it. This way, he comes back and there’s no other issues.”
Kieboom struggled at the plate in the major and minor leagues in 2021, with a .207/.301/.318 line in 62 games and 249 plate appearances in the majors, and a .237/.376/.385 line at Triple-A Rochester in the Nationals’ system.
“I talked to him for the few days he came to D.C. to get the MRI and I told him, ‘Hey, you’ve got to keep your head up,’” Martinez added. “‘I know this seems like the end of the world, but now it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge for you to get back and be healthy and work on some other things as well. And when you come back, you’re going to put this all behind you, and you’ll be ready to play baseball.’”
The injury issues, after all the on-field struggles, added to the frustration for Kieboom and the Nats, but Martinez said he wanted to see the infielder put in the work and get healthy.
“He just couldn’t — he felt better,” Martinez said, “... and then he went to throw a ball, he said he felt something, and we went to go get some more MRIs and they opted to do the surgery, which kind of stinks for him, but hopefully after the surgery we get him back rehabbing and I know it’s a long process as well, but that he has no other issues with his elbow.”
“We’re hoping that he is definitely ready by Spring Training,” Martinez said. “It’s a little bit different for a position player, so if everything goes well, I hope that he’s back for the first part of Spring Training.”
If he is healthy at the start of Spring Training 2023, Kieboom will be back where he was this past March, fighting for a spot on the big league roster and trying to turn things around in what has been a disappointing run since he got called up for the first time in 2019.
“He’s going to compete for the third base job,” GM Mike Rizzo told reporters earlier this month. “I think that all the reports are that with the Tommy John surgery he should be good to go in Spring Training. I’ve seen him down in Florida, my stops down there several times, and he knows what he has to do in the offseason to get better to come to Spring Training ready to go.”