Trea Turner has seen time at second and in center depending on the Washington Nationals’ needs since he came back up to the majors last month.
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, in a recent MLB Network Radio interview, talked about the options Turner gives manager Dusty Baker and where he might end up playing full-time when asked if he was still considered the shortstop of the future.
“We’re still evaluating where he’s at in his progression and where he fits with the ballclub this year,” Rizzo explained.
“We know where he’s at long-term — but this year.
“He brings an aspect of energy, speed, defense and athleticism to the lineup that is good in any type of baseball, but specifically playoff baseball when runs are at a premium and sometimes you have to manufacture stuff.
“We like what we’ve seen so far. We’re certainly very new into our evaluation process of Trea, but he’s been a breath of fresh air for us. He’s a high-energy, contact, speed type of guy that makes things happen and we like the results so far.”
Baker talked this weekend about having a versatile option like Turner available when he’s filling out his lineup card.
“It’s very convenient,” Baker said, “but he started out as a middle infielder. I know a lot of middle infielders who have gone to the outfield including like — one of them is in the Hall of Fame, Robin Yount. But I don’t know any that have gone from the outfield to the infield, as least not middle infield. If anything they went to first base or third base, so they said — it’s always been said that a shortstop can play anywhere on the [field]. This was a prime example.
“I tried not to move him back and forth too often, but I don’t want him to forget how to play the infield either. Because you can get comfortable in the outfield, you can get very comfortable. Just like [Daniel Murphy] can get comfortable at first base versus second base.
“We’re going to need these guys at any given time, even in the middle of a game, so we’ve got the option to move them, but I try not to.”
At the plate, Turner’s put up a .287/.323/.479 line, with four doubles, four triples, two home runs and eight steals in nine attempts over 99 plate appearances.
He ended the night on Tuesday in an 0 for 12 stretch after going 0 for 5 with two Ks in the Nationals’ 3-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
The hitless stretch followed a five-game hitting streak, however, over which Turner was 6 for 26, with a double, triple and two home runs, leaving him with a .318/.356/.529 line on the year to that point.
Baker said the ups and downs and adjustments on the part of opposing pitchers were expected.
“It's going to happen,” he said last night, before the first of two with the Indians.
“These people aren't going to just let him keep killing them. The test comes in how you adjust to what they're doing to you. I was that same rookie.”
“I also believe your toughest years in the big leagues are years No. 4 and 5. Then the league, instead of having a paperback on you, they have a hardback cover on you and how they’re trying to pitch and pitchers talk amongst teams, ‘How do you get this guy out and that guy out?’ and then it’s how you make the adjustment from there. I've always believed that the easiest time for you to hit is in your first year or so because then nobody really knows you.”
Baker has been through it himself, of course, as he explained, and he knows what it’s like when the league starts to adjust to you.
“I remember talking to Jerry Koosman, when I was hanging with Hank Aaron, Rico Carte and we were all together, Cleon Jones, Tommy Agee, and Jerry Koosman told me I was the toughest out in the lineup.
“I felt pretty good about myself but he kind of deflated me and said, ‘Cause I don’t know you yet.’ That’s the truth, that’s how it is.
“The guys that stick around, it's like Ron Fairly told me, 'it's harder to stay here than it is to get here.' Which is also, I've found, to be true.
“Now the adjustment comes after you've had success against those guys. The guys that I admire are those ones that have been around for 15-20 years. Those guys, there's nothing that hasn't been tried. They've tried fastball in, fastball away, slider, curveball. Then, once they find your hole, they make you so conscious of trying to fill your hole that you cease to be able to hit your strength anymore. I admire those guys and their longevity for, I mean, you guys remember guys like Joe Charboneau and some of those guys that came up killing and then all of sudden they were hard to find after a few years.”
Turner has to adjust to what the league learns about him and how they try to exploit the holes they find in his game.
Asked earlier this month if he saw any holes or issues with Turner’s swing, Baker, of course, declined to offer specifics.
"It's the same thing I saw in Spring Training,” he said. “I can't tell the world. We've all got strengths and weaknesses. One thing for sure, if there’s something they'll find it sooner or later.
“They might not find it this year, could be a couple years from now, but sooner or later, then it's how you combat what they're trying to do to you."
For now, however, Baker just wants to let Turner do his thing and get used to the grind of doing it on a daily basis.
“Let's leave him alone for a while,” the Nats’ skipper said. “Just leave him alone and enjoy it without too much fanfare. He's doing great. I don't want to ridicule him or praise him too quickly.
“I just want him to enjoy it, what he's doing and just keep on doing it. So, they say a shortstop can play anywhere, right? He's a prime example of that.
“I've tried not to bounce him around too much. Some managers would bounce him around in the middle of a game. Some guys would go from third to left field to wherever. I'm trying to keep him as much as I can in one position for a while.”