Carter Kieboom to make MLB debut Friday: 'This promotion was deserved'

Chris Lingebach
April 26, 2019 - 6:58 pm
Carter Kieboom to make MLB debut Friday: 'This promotion was deserved'

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

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21-year-old Carter Kieboom will bat ninth for the Nationals in his Major League debut against the Padres Friday night.

The Nationals selected the contract of Kieboom, their top infield prospect, earlier Friday, after an outstanding month at Triple-A Fresno.

Kieboom crushed Pacific Coast League pitching, hitting .379 (1.142 OPS) with six doubles, one triple and three home runs, and driving in 18 RBI in 18 games.

Why now?

"We wanted to get him some Triple-A at-bats under his belt," Nats GM and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo said. "He's performed admirably at the Triple-A level.

"With Trea still being weeks – not months, but weeks away – we felt that it not only gets one of our best prospect's feet wet in the big leagues, give him some experience, it also strengthens a strength of ours in putting Wilmer Difo back into a more comfortable role as being that super utility player that can play multiple positions and help us off the bench."

"We're excited to see him in his big-league debut," Rizzo said. "And like we do usually with our top prospects, he's gonna play a lot and we are going to be excited to see him perform. Hopefully he helps us win games."

Difo has hit somewhat reliably in Trea Turner's absence, averaging .242 at the plate with two doubles, two home runs and six RBI in his last 74 plate appearances. But with a much higher ceiling, there's no better time than now for Kieboom to jumpstart his big-league career.

The Nationals now have a timetable for Turner's return from a broken index finger on his throwing hand. Going on the 10-day Injured List on April 3, Turner sought a "routine second opinion," Rizzo says, which came up the same as Nationals physician Dr. Robin West's diagnosis. That puts Turner on track for a late-May return.

"It's a four-to-eight-week process," Rizzo said. "I think May 1 is week four, so, like I said, he's weeks away and not months. But we felt that, in the meantime, this promotion was deserved. We think that he's going to energize us and help us offensively. We'll get his feet wet and become one of the guys that we can really count on."

The Nats initially recalled Adrian Sanchez for defensive depth when Turner was injured nearly a month ago, with Rizzo saying at the time,"I just think we want to refine Carter defensively a little bit." Kieboom has logged six games at second base this month, seeming to suggest veteran Brian Dozier could have to fight for time at second base when Turner does return, or there could be a platoon of some sort. Dozier is hitting just .183.

What gives Rizzo the confidence that Kieboom is now refined enough defensively?

"He's a guy that we've trusted all along that he's gonna be a big-league shortstop, an everyday type of guy," he said. "What's changed is four weeks into the Triple-A season and more reps at that level. He had never played at that level before, so we wanted to see how he would handle that.

"He's handled it great, defensively, offensively. He's got a great baseball, high baseball IQ – he really knows how to play the game. There's gonna be a learning curve, there's gonna be hiccups, but we think that we've got ourselves a special 21-year-old player that we think is going to allow us to compete and hopefully assist us in winning some games."

The Nationals have been busy on the transaction wire the past two days in preparation of Kieboom's arrival, optioning infielder Jake Noll back to Fresno, and transferring right-handed reliever Koda Glover to the 60-day Injured List with a right forearm strain. Also Friday, the Nats placed reliever Trevor Rosenthal, who came down with viral infection on the latest road trip, on the 10-day IL.

Justin Miller, who hit the 10-day IL with a lower back strain on April 13, has been reinstated.

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