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C. Kieboom's experiences helping development

@cdenicola13
March 10, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Carter Kieboom isn't just soaking up the sun during his first taste of Major League Spring Training camp. Washington's No. 2 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, is using experiences on and off the diamond to guide his development. Kieboom, who homered against Marlins late-inning reliever

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Carter Kieboom isn't just soaking up the sun during his first taste of Major League Spring Training camp. Washington's No. 2 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, is using experiences on and off the diamond to guide his development.

Kieboom, who homered against Marlins late-inning reliever Adam Conley on Saturday, received congrats from veteran teammates in the clubhouse on Sunday morning, hours before driving in a run as the cleanup hitter in a 6-4 Nationals win over the Astros at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

"I came in here ultimately wanting to prepare for the long season ahead and get to know as many people as I can, get to know how they think," said Kieboom, whose older brother, Spencer, is a catcher in the organization.

"I'm in a great corner of guys [in the clubhouse]. All the position players over here -- outfielders, infielders -- kind of hear how they talk, how they do their business, how they show up every day. It's definitely huge for someone in my shoes, in their first camp. We have lots of veterans on this team. As a rookie and first big league camp, what more do you want? It's really on a platter for you to do the right things and go about your business."

Nationals manager Dave Martinez has certainly noticed, calling Kieboom a "gym rat" as he is always around the batting cages.

"He's like a sponge. He wants to absorb everything," Martinez said. "He listens, and he's hanging out with some of our veteran guys and talking and stuff."

Not a bad idea considering Kieboom is participating in his first big league camp while continuing the transition to a new position. A shortstop throughout his Minor League career, he made nine starts at second base in the 2018 Arizona Fall League and has five appearances there so far this spring.

The 21-year-old Kieboom's trajectory appears destined for the starting second-base job in 2020 following last season's promotion to Double-A and Minor League Player of the Year honor.

Though second base is a different angle with different reads, Kieboom said that "it really just feels like home."

"This is as close as I can get right now to the big leagues playing that position in terms of the speed of the game and all that's taking place," Kieboom said. "It's been great so far. I really feel comfortable over there. It's coming natural to me. I really trust myself now over there."

Martinez noted that Kieboom has made "unbelievable" strides at the position, particularly with his footwork. In Sunday's win, Kieboom helped turn an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play off the bat of George Springer in the third. Credit the work he has put in with first-base coach Tim Bogar and bench coach Chip Hale.

After all, Spring Training is preparation for the regular season. With it comes miscues, ones that the Nationals preach as teachable moments.

"If you're not making mistakes, then to me you're not really putting in the effort," Martinez said. "You've got to make mistakes. We tell him all the time, 'I don't judge people on errors or mistakes like that. I judge them on what they do after they make the mistakes.' And he's really good about it."

Kieboom will continue to follow that message, paired with not overthinking and trusting his athleticism.

"The more you play, the more experience you get, and that's what I liked about being out in Arizona," Kieboom said. "We played longer than the regular season. That was just more opportunities to see something different to just experience different game-like experiences. The more I can experience now, the much better off I'm going to be later."

Christina De Nicola is a reporter and game producer for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @CDeNicola13.