WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Tonight’s MLB Little League Classic offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Nationals to both experience the Little League World Series in person and then play in a nationally televised game in the most intimate setting they’ll ever have in the major leagues.
For two players, it also marks a welcome return to the big league roster.
Mason Thompson and Carter Kieboom were added to the Nats roster today, Thompson activated off the 15-day injured list to take the bullpen slot that opened up when Cory Abbott was optioned to Triple-A Rochester, Kieboom recalled from Rochester to serve as the designated 27th man for this special game.
Thompson returns after an IL stint of exactly 15 days due to a left knee contusion. The right-hander returns after making one rehab appearance for Double-A Harrisburg on Thursday, during which he tossed a scoreless inning on nine pitches.
Given the heavy usage of their bullpen this week, the Nationals couldn’t afford to activate Thompson before he was ready to be used in full capacity. He insisted to them he was ready for the workload.
“He was ready,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He was throwing the ball well. And it was his knee. It wasn’t like it was an arm injury. We decided we needed a fresh arm, and Mason was the guy for us.”
Kieboom’s promotion comes as a bit of a surprise, but both teams are allotted an extra player for this game, and that player must be a position player. With Kieboom already on the 40-man roster, the decision became easy for club officials.
The 2016 first-round pick missed all of the 2022 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, then he missed considerable time this season after injuring his oblique while on a rehab assignment. But he’s finally healthy again, and most importantly was producing at the plate: In eight games at Rochester since finishing his latest rehab assignment, he hit two homers with five RBIs, three walks and a .783 OPS.
“It’s been a slow process for him, but he was swinging the bat a lot better,” Martinez said. “He’s playing third base. Hopefully he’s over the injuries and he can get back and really start playing and getting back into the swing of things.”
Though he was called up to fill a spot that’s only available for one day, Kieboom might stick around longer if the Nationals want to get a more extended look at him. Martinez said he’d like to see him at both third base and second base, possibly even first base as the club tries to decide if he might still fit into their long-term plans.
For Kieboom, who for years has lived with the reputation of a top prospect who hasn’t realized his potential, this promotion to the majors carries a different significance.
“When they told me, there was a lot going through my mind,” he said. “I was kind of exhausted in a way, but there’s so much energy, I’m really excited. I just told myself that you worked so hard for this, and you worked so hard to come back, you have to enjoy it. No more pressure on yourself. Just have fun with the time left that you have. That’s kind of where my head’s at right now.”