The Washington Nationals finally have their leadoff hitter back in Adam Eaton.
Eaton was activated from the 10-day disabled list today and appeared in his first game with the team since April 8th against the New York Mets. He batted leadoff and went 1-for-4 with two runs scored in the Nationals’ 7-5 win over the San Francisco Giants after missing the previous 53 games with an ankle injury.
In-order to make room for Eaton on the 40-man roster again and the 25-man active roster, outfielder Rafael Bautista was granted his release, and right-handed pitcher Wander Suero was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. There was also an interesting wrinkle in Washington’s lineup today other than Eaton’s return.
The 29-year-old Eaton has appeared in all three outfield spots in his limited time as a National, and had 19-year-old rookie Juan Soto not been in the picture tearing the cover off the baseball, Eaton likely would’ve played left field today in his return. However, Soto of course is which made the decision on where to place Eaton in the outfield all the more difficult.
Star Bryce Harper is the Nationals everyday right fielder, but today he played center field for the first time since 2015 to accommodate for Eaton’s return. Nationals manager Davey Martinez said he decided to have some fun with the decision to play Harper in center and Eaton in right when asked pre-game:
“We tossed and turned about doing different things. Adam is a really good right fielder. I saw him play with the White Sox,” Martinez said. “I talked to Bryce about playing center, and he was all-in, excited about it. I thought, ‘Why not?’ Let him go out there and have some fun.”
What’s fun for the Nationals is that they’re finally getting healthy at a perfect time. While Stephen Strasburg will head to the disabled list indefinitely with a shoulder injury, Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman are expected to return to the lineup soon, which will be an added plus for an already potent offense that features Harper, Eaton, Anthony Rendon, and Trea Turner.
The hope in D.C. will be that Eaton remains healthy after getting another lengthy absence out of the way. He missed 139 games last season after tearing his ACL, which means that the Nationals have yet to truly reap the benefits of Eaton’s true value. They gave up a lot to acquire Eaton as well, by trading top pitching prospects Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez to the Chicago White Sox.
For his career, Eaton is a .285/.359/.419 hitter with 38 homers, 195 runs batted in, and 57 stolen bases. His last full-season came with the White Sox in 2016 when he slashed .297/.393/.462 with 14 homers, 59 runs batted in, and 14 stolen bases.
Photo: John Minchillo/Associated Press