Injured Eaton: 'I still have a lot of fire in me'

September 18th, 2020

knew immediately he was hurt. He had broken fingers in the past, and he had a strong feeling what the X-rays would reveal. He tried to play through it, anyways.

“I’ve been playing pretty [ticked] off lately,” Eaton said on Friday. “I think that had a lot to do with me staying just out there, because I was just ticked that I even had the opportunity for it to be hit. Just being irritated with how everything’s went and just trying to ‘whatever’ it. It kind of kept swelling up.

“The question was asked, ‘If there’s a runner on second base late in the game, can you make the throw?’ I said, ‘I’m going to give it hell, but you never know what could come out.’ I think with that answer, I think it was best that we took me out.”

Eaton fractured his left index finger on a bunt attempt Wednesday in the second inning of the Nationals’ 10-inning win over the Rays. He stayed in the game and nearly made a four-star catch before exiting in the fourth inning. The following day, the Nationals placed him on the 10-day injured list, effectively ending his season.

Eaton’s future with the organization is in question. His contract has a $10.5 million team option for 2021, with a $1.5 million buyout.

“It’s fitting for how my year has went, to end on that note,” said Eaton, 31. “On a personal level, with the contract next year, to do what I did this year and then to end up on the IL at the end of the year, it’s just as fitting as it could be.”

Eaton's ninth Major League season didn't go as he would have liked. He appeared in 41 games (all but one a start in right field) and posted a .226/.285/.384 slash line.

“I don’t want to look too far ahead because I’ll drive myself crazy with that,” Eaton said. “But this organization has been nothing but good to me, from the security guard that greets me in the morning to the Lerner family -- some of the best people I’ve ever met. For a 60-game season to kind of, I guess, settle my fate for next year coming back, it’s kind of -- I mean, I don’t want to use the word that I want to use, but it’s kind of crappy.”

The Nationals acquired Eaton from the White Sox in December 2016. Since then, he slashed .279/.365/.419 with 317 hits and 204 runs scored in 310 games. Last year, he ranked ninth in the National League in runs scored (103) and sixth in singles (111) in the Nats’ World Series championship season.

“He’s one of the reasons why we did what we did last year,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He was healthy last year, and you could see what he can do when he’s fully healthy. He’s an unbelievable player. He’s a spark plug on this team. His teammates mean a lot to him. This organization means a lot to him.

“Moving forward, we don’t know what’s going to happen. Hopefully, there’s conversations with him, but that’s something [general manager] Mike [Rizzo] and myself have to sit down and decide at the end of the year. But I love him. He knows that. He knows how I feel about him.”

Eaton doesn’t plan to give up on baseball anytime soon. He even worked out on Friday, knowing he wasn’t going to take the field.

“I think I have plenty of drive left. I think I have plenty of will to win,” Eaton said. “I want to play as long as they’ll let me play. … I still have a lot of fire in me.”

Roster moves
The Nationals recalled outfielder to the active roster and optioned outfielder to the alternate training site. Martinez plans for Stevenson to platoon in right field with .

The Nats wanted to add another left-handed hitter to the lineup. They also wanted to keep the multifaceted on the roster.

“He deserves it,” Martinez said of Stevenson. “He worked really hard in Fredericksburg, kept in shape. Stevenson’s a great guy, a good teammate.”