The 28-year-old suffered the leg injury in a 7-5 loss to the New York Mets on Friday when he landed awkwardly on first base. Eaton was tended to immediately and needed to be helped off the field.
Eaton’s season-ending injury will give Michael A. Taylor another shot in center field. The team also called up Rafael Bautista from its Triple-A team in Syracuse. MLB.com ranks Bautista as the 13th-best prospect in Washington’s system.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker wouldn’t speculate too much on Eaton’s injury on Saturday morning, saying it could be an ankle issue, a knee issue or both.
“Hopefully it’s not as serious as it looked,” Baker said.
Unfortunately, it was.
After coming over to Washington from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for two of the Nats’ top prospects last winter, Eaton quickly endeared himself to D.C. fans and boosted an already stacked lineup. He was hitting .297/.393/.462 at the top of the lineup before the injury. In 23 games this season there have only been three in which Eaton didn’t reach base safely. That production has helped the Nationals lead the majors in runs batted in with 140.
“I’m not going to say it won’t effect us at all,” Ryan Zimmerman said of losing Eaton. “We had a good thing going, too, with him leading off. Teams would kill to have one leadoff guy and we kind of had two with [him and Trea Turner]. You feel more bad for the person than the lineup. We’ll move on. We have to.”
While Baker is initially handing over center field to Taylor, it certainly isn’t guaranteed that the outfielder stays there. Taylor has recorded just two hits in 21 at-bats to start the season.
With Bautista up from Syracuse, the Nats at least have some options.
“Michael probably gets one more opportunity or two,” Baker said. “And then we’ll make an assessment. I told Michael this morning he’s been very blessed to keep getting these opportunities but you’ve got to capitalize on them.”
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