WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Adam Eaton participated fully in pregame workouts with the rest of the Nationals this morning. He did defensive drills in left field. He took batting practice, then live BP off a pitcher. He did everything his teammates did.
So how come he hasn’t played in a game yet, nor is apparently on the verge of playing in a game the next few days?
“If I get into a game today, is that going to help us get to opening day? Probably not,” Eaton said. “We’re going to take it and be methodical and do it right the first time and make sure I’m overcooked, so to speak, before I go out there.”
Point is, there’s still plenty of time to get Eaton ready to take the field March 29 in Cincinnati, his first regular season appearance since he tore the ACL in his left knee last April. So even though he feels ready to go, the Nationals will wait a bit longer to put Eaton into a Grapefruit League game, just to be safe.
When, though, is the target date to do it?
“No specific date,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s just working on his progression, and he’s coming along. He looks good. We just don’t want to push him. Our biggest thing is to get him ready for opening day, and that’s what we’re shooting for.”
Eaton insists he has no discomfort in his knee, nor has he in quite some time. He’s passed every test so far this spring.
What he hasn’t done yet is go full-speed in anything resembling a game situation. Not that most healthy players do that in early spring workouts. But give his situation, he’d like to find a way to ramp things up a bit before actually taking the field against an opponent.
“I mean, yeah, I can go like 60-70 percent in all my drills and make sure I’m getting the fundamental stuff down,” he said. “But, again, you go 70 to 100 (percent), that’s a big difference. That’s the steppingstone I guess, so to speak.”
There should be ample opportunities for Eaton to get at-bats as the spring plays out. He could get his feet wet playing in minor league games, where big leaguers are allowed to lead off every inning and be in a more controlled environment.
“We have so many at-bats that I’d like to get in, but they may not have to come on the big field,” he said. “I got five live at-bats before I came in here, so I don’t think that’s going to be an issue. It’s just standing for nine innings is going to be big, and just getting into the rhythm of the game. So those are kind of the two things that I’m ... not worried about, but that I need to check off my list before opening day.”
No matter what, Eaton does appear to be significantly ahead of Daniel Murphy in returning to game action. Murphy, who had microfracture surgery on his right knee in late October, has progressed slightly from where he was a week ago when position players reported to camp. But the veteran second baseman still isn’t taking grounders with the rest of the team and he hasn’t been cleared to hit yet, either.
“He’s doing a little bit more, but it’s more doing his progression running and getting his strength back in his leg,” Martinez said. “But he’s coming along really well, too. I talked to him this morning and he said he feels great. Once again, we’re going to just take our time and make sure he’s fully ready.”
Note: MASN today released its 2018 Nationals broadcast schedule. To see a copy of the schedule, click here.