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Soto getting reps in RF; Kieboom to IL

@jessicacamerato
September 23, 2020

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have made lineup changes all season, and one in the outfield this week was attention grabbing. Manager Dave Martinez shifted Juan Soto from left field to right field for Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader and Wednesday’s 12-3 loss to the Phillies. Andrew Stevenson started in left.

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have made lineup changes all season, and one in the outfield this week was attention grabbing.

Manager Dave Martinez shifted Juan Soto from left field to right field for Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader and Wednesday’s 12-3 loss to the Phillies. Andrew Stevenson started in left.

“We will see what happens in the future,” Martinez said. “Right now, honestly, it’s part of really keeping him engaged.

Soto played 108 games in right field in his short Minor League career, but never on the big league level before Tuesday. Returning to the position gave the 21-year-old flashbacks to his earlier playing days.

“It’s really nice to be out there again and try to feel like my first year in Rookie ball,” Soto said.

Soto quickly made his mark in left field, becoming a National League Gold Glove Award finalist last year in only his second season. There is an aspect of playing right that suits his game well, too.

“I told him before the game [on Tuesday], ‘You know, right fielders hit for power,’" Martinez said.

Soto has gone deep in back-to-back games, breaking a homerless September skid.

“I just feel good playing right field, and I’ve been feeling good at the plate, too,” Soto said. “So it’s a combination of that.”

When mentioned that people might ponder if this move could denote the possibility of changing the makeup of the Nationals' outfield through free agency, Martinez replied with a laugh, “It could be a possibility. Use your imagination.”

Injured right fielder Adam Eaton has a $10.5 million team option and a $1.5 million buyout for 2021. The top-25 list for '20-21 free agents includes the Astros' George Springer, the Braves' Marcell Ozuna and the Dodgers' Joc Pederson.

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

Kieboom to IL
The Nationals placed third baseman Carter Kieboom on the 10-day IL on Wednesday, retroactive to Tuesday, after sustaining a bone contusion in his left hand. On Monday, he was hit by a 95.2 mph sinker from Phillies starter Zack Wheeler on his non-throwing hand. The initial X-ray taken that night was negative.

“We want to get that swelling down and get him another X-ray,” Martinez said. “He hasn’t gotten really that much better. His mobility’s not very good.”

The injury marks the end of Kieboom's first season in the Majors, which was filled with ups and downs. Given the opportunity to earn the third-base starting role in Spring Training, Kieboom, 23, ended up platooning the position with veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera.

After a slow start, the Nationals optioned Kieboom to the alternate training site on Aug. 26 to work on his offense. He was finding more of a groove since being recalled on Sept. 5.

Kieboom entered 2020 ranked as the Nats’ No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He slashed .202/.344/.212 with a .556 OPS, 15 runs, one double, nine RBIs, 17 walks and 33 strikeouts in 99 at-bats.

In a corresponding move, the Nationals recalled right-hander Wil Crowe, their No. 4 prospect, to the active roster.

Final starting rotation announced
The Nationals announced their starting pitchers for the final series of the regular season against the Mets. Patrick Corbin will start on Thursday against David Peterson in a battle of lefties (6:05 p.m. ET). Former Cy Young Award-winning right-handers Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello will pitch on Friday (6:05 p.m. ET). Aníbal Sánchez will take the mound against fellow right-hander Jacob deGrom on Saturday (6:05 p.m. ET), and right-handers Austin Voth and Seth Lugo will wrap up the weekend on Sunday (3:05 p.m. ET).

Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.