Eaton hurt the finger on a bunt attempt in Wednesday’s game against the Rays. After the injury, Eaton tried to shake it off, play defense and stay in the game. But the finger began to swell up and he could not grip the ball as well as he wanted to, hampering his ability to throw.
“I’ve been playing pretty pissed off lately, so I think that had a lot to do with me just staying out there because I was just ticked that I even had the opportunity for it to be hit,” Eaton said during today’s pregame Zoom video session with reporters. “It kind of kept swelling up. The question was asked if there was a runner on second base late in the game can you make the throw? I said I’m going to give it hell, but you never know what will come out.
“With that answer, I think it was best that we took me out. I knew it was broken. I’ve gotten my finger jammed and I’ve actually broken multiple fingers, so I just kind of had a feeling that it was that way and I wasn’t real surprised by the x-ray.”
Eaton was never really able to get on track during this abbreviated season. He talked about how there just was not the adrenaline rush he was used to with 40,000 fans at Nationals Park and how this new environment took its toll on him mentally. After hitting a career-low .226 through 41 games, Eaton was not surprised a freak injury like this would end his season prematurely.
“It’s fitting for how my year has went to end on that note,” Eaton said. “On a personal level, with the contract next year, to do what I did this year and to end up on IL at the end of the year is just as fitting as could be.”
Eaton is finishing up a six-year, $33 million contract in D.C., and the Nats have a team option on him for 2021. The right fielder said that team option is certainly on his mind.
“It’s been a wacky year, odd season,” Eaton said. “I don’t want to look too far ahead because I’ll drive myself crazy with that. This organization has been nothing but good to me. From the security guard that greets me in the morning to the Lerner family, some of the best people I have ever met.
“For a 60-game season to settle my fate for next year is kind of crappy. I try to be as consistent as I can for this team when I am on the field. It’s unfortunate but it’s kind of how the year is going.”
Manager Davey Martinez said he will have discussions with general manager Mike Rizzo about Eaton’s future with the club, but there is no denying the veteran outfielder’s value to the Nats .
“He’s one of the reasons why we did what we did last year,” Martinez said. “He was healthy last year and you could see what he can do when he’s fully healthy. He’s an unbelievable player. He’s a sparkplug on this team. His teammates mean a lot to him. This organization means a lot to him.
“Moving forward, we don’t know what is going to happen. Hopefully there’s conversations with him, but that’s up to Mike, myself. (We) have to sit down and decide at the end of the year. I love him. He knows that. He knows how I feel about him. He’s a guy that gets us fired up in that dugout (and) in that clubhouse every day. It stinks that he had to go out like this with his finger but hopefully he gets healthy.”
Eaton turns 32 on Dec. 6 and has played nine seasons in the big leagues. He believes he still has plenty left in the tank. Eaton also sees value in his leadership ability fostered by strong relationships with young Nats outfielders Juan Soto and Victor Robles.
“I think I have plenty of drive left,” Eaton said. “I have plenty of will to win and play to win. This offseason will be to completely get healthy again. Coming into camp here, I had some issues and things that can be cleaned up pretty well with a couple of months off. I want to play for as long as they will let me play.
“I love being the older guy in the clubhouse being able to mentor the younger guys. Victor and Soto, working with those guys, especially in ‘17 and ‘18 when I was down to be really able to talk to them and help them along the way. I think that’s something that I can share.
“Now that I have won a World Series, I think that’s something that I might be able to help, being able to see all facets of the game. I saw a lot of fire in me. Still have the willingness to win. I worked out today even though I can’t do a damn thing. Getting ready for next year.”