Then Kieboom paused before revealing what was in his mind.
"Especially at the third base in spring training," continued the 22-year-old. "I really worked on that in the off-season."
In December 2018, Kieboom prepared to win the job as Washington's everyday second baseman. Now, with a month to spring training, it's an option to meet an urgent need for a third party. As a natural shortstop, the Nationals' top perspective said he was ready for another transition. He spent much of 2019 learning the second base in minors. He also tried a third place and played 10 games there. There he accelerated his work.
There is a hole because Anthony Rendon left the free agency in November. The Nationals were there to sign Josh Donaldson, who is still available but has changed course since then. They signed the veterans Starlin Castro and Asdrúbal Cabrera. They brought back Howie Kendrick, who played a third base for them last season. The plan is to turn players through the position and give Kieboom a chance to prove themselves in spring training, which starts next month in West Palm Beach, Florida.
On Saturday, General Manager Mike Rizzo did not hurry to appoint a third baseman. That doesn't mean that Kieboom doesn't keep an eye on the role.
"We believe we'll be solid on the third base." All of our options can play it very well, ”said Rizzo. "Kieboom is not proven there at the big league level, but he is a competent shortstop and we are comfortable with what we saw in third place in the small leagues."
Kieboom has had an odd year of 2019 in which he made his big league debut, was ahead of the game in this game and then struggled through eleven games and 39 bats. He hit .128 with 16 strikeouts and made four mistakes on shortstop. The game accelerated, as he later explained, and returning to the minors gave him the chance to sit back.
This happened with the AAA Fresno class, which brought Kieboom away from the second base, shortstop and third base. When Kieboom considered whether he should finish second last winter, he discussed footwork and unusual perspectives. The third, where he recently played regularly in high school, is all about reaction time.
National team coach and infield coordinator Tim Bogar was encouraged by what he saw from Kieboom last season, despite making some defensive mistakes. The Nationals believe that natural shortstops are flexible, and they have never thought about Kieboom's ability to switch positions. The difference now is that they are determined to take him to second or third place. The previous company line was that Kieboom would take a short break and hop around if necessary. Then came this need.
If Kieboom has a chance to play third every day, the Nationals could spell him Cabrera, Castro, or Kendrick and make sure everyone is on their toes. Castro stands out well as starting second, although he could see more time in third place if Kieboom is not ready. Kendrick otherwise interfered with the second and first bases. Cabrera can play anywhere. Kieboom, should he be there on the opening day, serves both as a backup shortstop and as a deep stop in second place.
"The plan is to give our manager the flexibility to do what he thinks is pleasant that day," said Rizzo. “We needed about 48 players last year to win a world title. This thing needs a village. It takes depth. You have to have players willing to take on the challenge, be versatile, and use multiple lineups. "
The only thing that is definite is that there will be none. Kieboom has the opportunity to join the infield carousel. This way, this winter feels similar to the last one. He just hopes that this season will be different. When it's over and it's time to look ahead again, he may have one position to focus on, not three to fill his brain.
Or maybe its strength is that it can be inserted anywhere. The Nationals will find out soon.
"I am showing myself to spring training to really play all positions in the infield," he said. "Obviously, I place more emphasis on certain points. But I feel very comfortable with everyone – I really do. I mean that when I say that. I am pretty honest. "
Then he pointed again to third place and what lies ahead.
"I'm really excited to have an opportunity there," he said.