Carter Kieboom was diagnosed with a flexor mass strain in his right arm in Spring Training 2022, and when he started to throw again, and experienced discomfort, a torn UCL in his right elbow which required Tommy John surgery and cost the 25-year-old, 2016 1st Round pick all of 2022.
Talking to reporters at the end of the ‘22 campaign, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said the hope was the infielder would be ready for the start of Spring Training, where the one-time top infield prospect in the organization would compete for the hot corner job in D.C.
“He’s going to compete for the third base job,” Rizzo explained.
“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.”
When the GM in the nation’s capital spoke with reporters again at the Winter Meetings in December of ‘22, after the club signed veteran Jeimar Candelario, and told him he’d play third base, Rizzo said Kieboom would still be competing for the job and the best player in the mix would earn it.
“Carter is going to compete for third base, and the best player will play third, and we’ll make other arrangements for the other players,” he said.
But with questions around Kieboom’s elbow, the Nationals added depth at third base.
“It helps us at that position, but gives us flexibility. If Carter comes back to the player that we all envisioned him being when he was one of the top prospects in the game, then Candy can play a whole bunch of different positions, but they’re going to compete, and Carter is healthy, he’s preparing for Spring Training. He’s in baseball mode now, so we’ll see when he arrives where we’re at.”
“Carter missed a year,” Nats’ manager Davey Martinez said in his own press conference at the Winter Meetings, “but we’ve still got a lot of value in Carter.
“I talked to Carter the other day. He’s been working out and he’s been hitting. He says he feels really good. He’s been coming along.
“We expect him to be ready to go for Spring Training, and he’s going to fight for a third base job.”
Asked what, if any, concerns he had about Kieboom coming back after TJS, Martinez said it was obviously significant, but he believed the third baseman would recover.
“He’s going to bounce back,” the skipper said. “What I want to see him do, because third base you’ve got different angles on throwing, we want to make sure he gets his reps.
“If he comes back and he’s ready to do all those things and he can compete for that third base job, then he will.”
The plan early in Spring Training was to start Kieboom off as a DH this spring before he took the field again in game action. The club was determined to take a cautious approach.
“We just want to give him some at-bats,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco earlier this month.
“We’re going to kind of ease into this thing with him, so he gets to DH and get him some at-bats and get him going.”
“He’s getting closer,” Martinez added. “The biggest thing for him is all the reps, the volume. So kind of building him up, getting him there. There’s some days he comes in, he’s still a little sore. So we want to make sure we take care of him. But hitting-wise, he’s OK. So I want to try to get him at-bats, get him in a game and then we’ll do some different things.”
Kieboom got back into a game as the designated hitter last week, which he and the club considered a “big win” after a long time out of action.
“Oh yeah, it was a buildup for sure,” Kieboom said, as quoted by MASN’s Blanco. “But it was great. Definitely, my first at-bat I was excited. I was definitely anxious. But again, I think I was just happy with the fact that I stuck with what I wanted to do at the plate, no matter how excited I was or anxious I was. So for me, that was a big win today.”
The club was limiting how and how often he threw, however, as he worked his way back to full-on action in the field as well.
“Arm’s been good, arm’s been progressing pretty well,” Kieboom said. “I think we got a little bit more time with it. It’s just a matter of managing the amount of throwing we’re doing and building that up properly. I’m happy with where it’s at right now.”
Unfortunately, however, Kieboom suffered a setback, with tightness in his right shoulder forcing the team to shut him down this past weekend.
“Carter had a little setback. Now it’s his shoulder,” his manager said, as quoted on MASN.
“He’s got some tightness in his right shoulder. I think because of the Tommy John, this is part of it. So we’re gonna be really careful with him and kind of build up some strength in that shoulder and then go from there. It’s all the throwing. He said he could hit. But I told him, ‘Let’s just back off a little bit. We got time, build up some strength in that shoulder and then we’ll get you back out there as soon as the trainers deem ready.’”
Did something get thrown off while Kieboom was worried about his elbow? Will he get by this too and get back to game action soon?
They’ve slowed Kieboom down again, with plans to rest the shoulder a couple days before he gets back at it if things clear up.
If there are no lingering issues, they can get Kieboom at-bats in minor league games, Martinez said, where they can let him do whatever they want him to do in a controlled environment. Bad news again for Kieboom. What’s next?