Eaton homers in 2018 debut: 'It's a big step'

Outfielder goes deep in return from torn left ACL; Taylor also back in lineup

March 17th, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- After Nationals manager Dave Martinez wrote 's name in the lineup for the first time this spring, he gave Eaton a hug.
"Welcome back," Martinez told Eaton ahead of what would be his first big league game in about 11 months.
Then in his Grapefruit League debut, Eaton quickly put any lingering health concerns about his recovery from a torn left ACL to rest when he swatted a solo home run off in the third inning of Saturday's 9-7 loss to the Mets. After Eaton rounded the bases, he pointed to the group of 10 family members and friends in attendance, which included his wife, who is due with their second child in May, his son, and a group of his cousins. His wife told him there wasn't a dry eye among them.
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"Today's been kind of a blur, but it's a big step for all of us," Eaton said. "It's been a long 10 months-plus, and just to be able to have that hit in general is big for me and my family."
Eaton was not the only outfielder Washington welcomed back on Saturday, as center fielder Michael A. Taylor played his first game in about two weeks after he was sidelined with soreness in his right side. Both outfielders have been getting at-bats on the back fields in Minor League games, but had been absent from the Nats' lineup lately.

Both Eaton and Taylor were greeted with rousing ovations from the crowd at the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches before their first at-bats. And they quickly showed that they are healthy.
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After Eaton's home run, Taylor also showed off during the third inning when he singled, stole second base and advanced to third after an errant throw. Later in the game, he made a diving catch on a line drive to center field. He finished the day 1-for-3.
"My body feels good," Taylor said. "I should probably take it a little easy so I don't end up on the DL again, but I want to play hard and my body feels good, so I want to play 100 percent.

Eaton's spring debut was a long time coming, but the Nationals wanted to take their time with him this spring to ensure he was 100 percent before he returned to the lineup.
"It was a big day overall, everywhere," Eaton said. "The home run, yes. But defensively to be able to do that, and to run the bases as well, stand on my feet for four innings was big. A lot of boxes checked off."
It made for an encouraging afternoon overall for the Nationals, who had been confident that their outfielders would be ready to go when the season begins on March 29. But seeing them in the lineup together for the first time all spring was a different story.
"If those guys are healthy, they're a big part of our lineup and success moving forward," Martinez said. "It was good to see those guys out there."