Trea Turner played just six games in center before he was called up to the majors last summer to take over in the outfield for the Washington Nationals.
Drafted and developed as a shortstop, Turner admitted that learning a new position in the middle of a run for a division title was difficult.
“A little bit harder than I thought it would be,” Turner said. “I think there’s so much that goes into it at the major league level that you don’t notice when you play as a little kid. Guys are a lot stronger, the balls go a lot farther.
“They can be out in front a slider and still hit a home run so it’s just a matter of getting those reps, and I think it’s hard to get those reps on the fly.”
Turner told reporters he was looking forward to being able to focus on playing short exclusively this season, after the trade that sent Danny Espinosa to the LA Angels in December opened up the position.
“Excited to have an opportunity to go back there,” he said.
“I think that’s where I’m most comfortable and it’s where I played the majority of my career and I look forward to trying to prove that I can play there at a high level and be consistent.”
Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker hasn’t seen much of Turner at short, but he said he was relying on the organization’s scouting reports like he did last season.
“You’ve got to go on the words of our analysts and our people that had him in the minor leagues,” Baker said.
“Last year they weren’t ready to give him a job because he needed some time in the minor leagues. I know everybody wants to rush these kids, but sometimes you have to serve your apprenticeship in order to get here and stay here for a long period of time.”
GM Mike Rizzo too said he was confident that Turner, who played six games at short over the first two seasons in the majors, would be fine there this season.
“He showed flashes of it when he played in the big leagues,” Rizzo said.
“We think he’s going to be a rangy shortstop. He’s got good hands, he’s got good feet.
“He’s got range, he’s got plenty of arm to play short and I think he’s going to be a good defensive shortstop with good offense.”
In 73 games and 324 plate appearances last season, Turner put up a .342/.370/.567 line with 14 doubles, eight triples, 13 home runs and 33 steals in a 3.3 fWAR campaign.
“It was a heck of a year from a team standpoint and I guess an individual standpoint,” Turner said.
“I felt like I learned a lot. Felt like I learned how to play every day. I got to play every day at a level that I haven’t yet. Even when I got called up in September ‘15, I didn’t get a chance to play every day, so it was a matter of making adjustments when they adjusted back to me and I was very happy with the way the year went, obviously I wish we could have won a few more games, but looking forward to next year and getting a chance to start the year [at short] and trying to go out and win the championship.”