Kieboom looks back on his 2020 season

September 24th, 2020

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals want third baseman to undergo a second X-ray to address the continued swelling in his contused left hand, but he does not expect he will need a procedure to alleviate it.

“I don’t think [surgery] is in the cards for this,” Kieboom said on Thursday prior to the Nationals' series opener with the Mets. “It feels a little better. I can move it and do those sorts of things. I think grip strength is kind of where my problem is right now, but the swelling is still a little bit there.”

Kieboom’s first full season in the Major Leagues ended on Wednesday, when he was placed on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to Tuesday) after being hit on his non-throwing hand by Phillies starter Zack Wheeler on Monday. Initial X-rays were negative, but the plan is for him to seek additional opinions and testing in the coming days.

“Overall, it feels better,” Kieboom said, “but definitely not worth risking or maybe making it worse this last series.”

Kieboom, who entered the season as the Nationals’ No. 1 prospect as ranked by MLB Pipeline, described this year as having positive takeaways, with “a lot of ups and a lot of downs” mixed in as he transitioned from shortstop to third.

Offensively, he wants to continue working on his approach at the plate and swing consistency. In 99 at-bats, he slashed .202/.344/.212 with a .556 OPS, 15 runs, one double, nine RBIs, 17 walks and 33 strikeouts.

Defensively, Kieboom is pleased with the adjustments he made in learning a new position.

“It was almost like [early on] I played third base as a shortstop, instead of playing third base like a third baseman and letting the ball come to you,” he said. “I got a lot lower to the ground over at third base -- more of like a goalie style, you could say. I don’t know how many times I fielded the ball with two hands over there. Everything was kind of one-handed. I think that was the best adjustment I could make.”

Nationals eliminated by Giants' loss
When the Nationals left Nats Park on Wednesday after dropping to 23-33 following their 12-3 loss to the Phillies, they were mathematically still in the playoff chase.

If the Brewers, Cardinals and Giants all lost on Wednesday as well, the Nationals would remain in the hunt. Milwaukee and St. Louis did their part, but San Francisco topped Colorado hours later, ending Washington’s chance to defend its World Series championship.

“I did watch the [Giants] game,” manager Davey Martinez said on Thursday. “It was disappointing. … I’ll address the team later on today, tell them how proud I am. It was a tough year, tough for everybody. I’m proud that they came, they showed up, they played, the effort was there.”

The 2020 season marks 20 years since the last time a team repeated as champion. (The Yankees won three straight World Series from 1998-2000.) Since then, 11 teams have missed the playoff the season after winning it all.

“We fell short, but let’s not forget who we are,” Martinez said. “I’ll remind them that other than not making the playoffs this year, we did win the World Series in 2019. That means a lot, that doesn’t go away. Let’s come back in 2021 and do it again.”

The Nationals team that captured the first title in franchise history last October is not the same team that finished the 2020 season. The year began with Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross electing not to play. Then injuries struck, headlined by the season-ending surgery of Stephen Strasburg. There were 18 assignments to the IL, and 14 players remained on it with four games to go.

“With all the players going in and out with the injuries and the new guys, I actually think that we’ve got a bunch of guys that never quit,” Martinez said.

Martinez is looking forward to the future of the team, including the enhancements the organization will make in the offseason. He said the Nationals will be “ready to go in 2021.” Until then, he has a massive piece of jewelry on his finger as a nod to what the Nats had accomplished and were trying to defend.

“I have this to remind me, too, by the way,” Martinez said, flashing his World Series ring.