Adam Eaton got to stand in for a couple of at-bats against right-hander Stephen Strasburg in Friday’s morning sim game. He jokingly acted like he was going to bunt early on in the first at-bat, smiling as he returned to the batter’s box.
The right fielder ended up lining out to center field and then later grounded out back to Strasburg. All in all, he was happy to see real-life pitching as summer training reaches its second week.
“It was good. Workouts have been smooth, just as all of Davey’s camps have been,” Eaton said, referring to Nationals manager Davey Martinez during a video call afterward. “Getting us in, getting our feet underneath us has been really good. Seeing Strasburg today was on a different level. He seems like he is in July form, and a lot of us hitters are still in the early stages, so it was a good test for everybody today. I think those tests, we need more of those. I am excited for the days to come.”
Eaton was back in Michigan for all the time off during the coronavirus shutdown and said it was difficult to get in regular baseball-type workouts, but he attempted to make the most of the situation at his home.
“It was difficult,” Eaton said. “I live in Michigan and we were one of the worst hit by the virus early on. I was unable to work out or hit or do anything, basically, the whole time I was home except for the last couple of weeks. A lot of unique ways to train and make things difficult in the yard and play with the kids, try to be as creative as possible in order to keep my body in shape.”
When Martinez was told about Eaton having to be creative in finding a place to work out during the shutdown, he said he didn’t believe it. He likes the way Eaton is swinging the bat right now.
“I kid you not, I think Adam Eaton has a secret facility somewhere in his house in the basement,” Martinez said on the Zoom call. “Every time I see him he comes and swings the bat really well. He lined out today. The other day he hit a couple of line drives. He looks really good, he looks fit, looks ready to go. Him and Trea (Turner) at the top of the order, they make things happen.”
With summer training lasting just three weeks, everyone has had to ramp up their preparation. For hitters like Eaton, that means trying to see pitchers with velocity as much as possible. Facing Strasburg is the ultimate test.
“We’ve done more velocity (work) underneath in the cages just to try to get us ready,” Eaton said. “Basically off a machine or overhand flips really close. Basically, anything to make us panic. It’s easy to hit flips, it’s easy to hit off a tee, but then you add some velocity and some variable you get that in-game panic where you’re rushing to get to certain things. So when we do see Stephen Strasburg or one of the guys throwing upper 90’s mph it’s not as foreign to us. It’s been productive so far. I think guys have had pretty competitive at-bats out there, so it’s working.”
And Eaton was quick to point out it’s never fun and games facing a pitcher the caliber of Strasburg. The right-hander threw 52 pitches in three innings and Martinez said his pitcher “felt good” after the outing. Strasburg did allow a solo shot to Kurt Suzuki.
“I was definitely in a serious competition with Strasburg,” Eaton said. “You don’t take that at-bat seriously, you’ll look dumber than you already are. He is impressive. I think everyone is not taking a fun-loving approach to it, but I feel like if we take it more serious than what it is, I think it’s only going to hinder us. If we take it for what it’s worth, then that fun, loose mentality, everybody will be better off.”
Eaton said the bottom line in week two of summer training is that everything is accelerated a bit. The first exhibition game is July 18, so there’s not a lot of time to get ready this second time around.
“I think all of our bodies are like ‘What in the world is going on?’ ” Eaton said. “This is my tenth year of professional baseball and I am one of the younger guys on the team. So, during this time usually you are kind of beat down in the swing of things. We have had a couple of months off and now trying to ramp back up with the fewest games as possible it seems like we got to roll with the punches. We got to be creative on how we can prepare.”