Trea Turner missed 51 games while he recovered from a non-displaced fracture in his left wrist, the result of a hit-by-pitch in a late-June series with the Chicago Cubs.
With Turner out, and Stephen Drew injured as well, Wilmer Difo filled in at short over the last two months, posting a .341/.389/.467 line with six doubles, three triples, and three home runs in 48 games and 189 plate appearances between July 1st and August 29th when Turner came off the DL.
Dusty Baker told reporters that even though Turner was back, and would reclaim his spot at short, he planned to find time for Difo, who impressed given the opportunity to play on an everyday basis in Turner’s absence.
“I told him [Difo] could play left, center, right, and second, short, third,” Baker said, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo.
“He’s not quite tall enough to have at first base, but that’s quite a few positions to have an opportunity to stay sharp and continue to contribute.”
In Turner’s first game back at short, Difo made his MLB debut in right field, where he was serviceable, making a catch going back in deep right when the first ball in play inevitably found its way to him, and making a basket catch later in the game when he momentarily lost track of the ball, but recovered in time to make the grab.
“He looked pretty good, other than that Willie Mays catch kind of scared us, you know,” Baker joked after the game.
“But first time he’s been out there so we’re going to work him out everywhere, and like I told him, man, he’s going to be kind of like my sixth man in basketball, which is a very valuable person.”
Difo got a start at second with Daniel Murphy sitting out of the series finale with the Miami Marlins on Wednesday afternoon, and though he wasn’t in the Nationals’ lineup for the series opener in Milwaukee on Thursday, Baker said he’d be back tonight.
“He played right one day and then he played second yesterday, so we just have to wait and let it unfold,” Baker explained.
“Tomorrow he’s at third cause I’m giving Anthony — I think he needs a blow. So, I told him that’s what a qualified sixth man does, and so I’ll get him in there whenever I can and I just told him to stay ready and have a lot of different gloves.”