Notes: Kieboom motivated; Scherzer locked in

July 8th, 2020

Being tabbed a starting third baseman at the Major League level at 22 years old is no small accomplishment. For some, it’s cause for celebration. When Carter Kieboom was the recipient of that news, his mind went straight into work mode.

“I’ll be honest with you,” Kieboom said on Tuesday. “The first thing that ran through my head was, ‘Let’s keep the job.’ It’s one thing to get one, but it’s another thing to keep it and progress that way. That’s kind of where my head’s at right now.”

The Nationals had been considering Kieboom and veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera for the role. Kieboom only had 11 games of big league experience -- all at shortstop -- and he was frank about the challenges in transitioning to a new position.

Earning the spot wouldn’t come without hard work. The coaching staff outlined areas of improvement after Spring Training was halted, and Kieboom “really didn’t stop” practicing. He focused on his footwork, fielded “tons and tons” of ground balls and worked on his hitting.

“I did everything,” Kieboom said. “I tried to check all those boxes, so that way when I showed up, I wasn’t a step behind. I felt like I could be a step ahead.”

While Kieboom was trying to establish a rhythm in Florida, having more than three months to evaluate his performances when the game was on pause actually was beneficial for him.

“It kind of was a blessing in disguise,” Kieboom said. “Because I found some things I was doing in Spring Training [that] I didn't really care for from the offensive side and the defensive side. I can continue to work on those.”

Kieboom added, "I'm always going to try to take the positive out of whatever situation is thrown our way. I wouldn't say I loved the time off. I'd much rather be playing baseball, but I feel like I made the most of that time I had off."

Scherzer showing in-season intensity
Max Scherzer showed up early -- an hour-and-a-half early, to be exact -- to throw a simulated game in Tuesday’s workout.

“He was out there at 10:30 just pacing back and forth, trying to get himself psyched up and treating this as if it was a game,” manager Dave Martinez said.

Scherzer threw 48 pitches to his teammates over three innings as the Nationals aim to get each hitter 40 at-bats before the start of the season on July 23. The team will monitor how he feels the following day to continue his pitching program.

“The key now is his turnaround,” Martinez said. “Let’s see how he feels tomorrow. But he came out of the game and said he felt good. His pitches were pretty sharp for being the first time out facing hitters. I liked it a lot. He liked it.”

Prospects head to Virginia
With only so much space available at Nationals Park in adherence with social distancing, the team selected a group of 17 players -- mostly prospects -- to work out at its alternate training site.

Right-handers Joan Adon, Dakota Bacus, Cade Cavalli, Tyler Eppler, Paolo Espino, Steven Fuentes, Jake Irvin, Kyle McGowin, Jackson Rutledge and Austen Williams, left-handers Ben Braymer, Tim Cate, Matt Cronin, Seth Romero, and Nick Wells, and catchers Taylor Gushue and Jakson Reetz are on the roster to train at the New Fredericksburg Ballpark in Virginia.

“They’re going to come back after they get going and start throwing bullpens,” Martinez said of the pitchers. “Once we deem that they’re ready to start facing hitters in a game, we’ll start bringing them back and letting them face some of our hitters in games.”

The depth of the 60-man player pool -- which stands at 59 following the addition of Gushue on Tuesday -- is key as the Nationals navigate their roster amid the uncertainty of COVID-19 testing. As an example, pitchers Adon, Roenis Elías and Wander Suero have not participated in workouts. Their intake test results were negative, but they have been quarantining.

“It’s important that these guys understand that we’re in a different situation, and we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” Martinez said of the players on the alternate training site roster. “So they’ve got to be ready to help us now. We want to see them. We want to put eyes on them. We’re going to get reports on these guys daily and see how they’re doing, and we’ll go from there.”