Washington Nationals’ skipper Dave Martinez has been pretty clear this winter that if Adam Eaton is healthy, he’s going to be leading off in 2018. Trea Turner, who missed a total of 10 games in mid-April with a hamstring injury and 51 games with a fractured wrist between June and August, took most of his at bats in the leadoff spot last year.
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo, in an interview on MLB Network Radio last month, told hosts Jim Duquette, Jim Bowden, and Mike Ferrin, that as usual, lineup decisions are best left to the manager, though he offered his take on why Eaton and Turner batting 1-2 works.
“I like that way of constructing the lineup,” Rizzo said.
“Eaton’s an on-base percentage guy, more so than Turner is. Turner’s got some big-time sneaky pop, likes to hit fastballs, he’ll see more fastballs with Eaton on first base, and Eaton goes first-to-third as good or better than anybody in the National League, and I don’t think it will curtail Turner from stealing any bases, and I just think it’s a good balance in the lineup, left/right, and we can go left/right after that, and I like the fact that this year’s starting lineup looks like we’re going to have three left-handed bats and a switch hitter in the starting lineup, so it’s a good balance for us.”
Turner told reporters at WinterFest last month that he’s comfortable hitting wherever he’s asked to.
“I’ve hit one-two, and surprisingly I’ve hit three most of my life,” Turner explained.
“Not that I’m going to be hitting three, but I feel like those are three really different positions in the lineup, and I feel like I’ve done all of them, so I know what is expected out of each one of those, and I feel like you can take that experience away, so whatever day it is if he changes the lineup, then so be it. We’ll move on from there, and you know our job is to play as best we can and if that means 1-2-3, then I need to do that at a high level in order for us to win.”
Asked what, if any, adjustments he thought he’d have to make if he’s hitting second, Turner said it would depend.
“I think it depends who is in front of you,” he explained.
“I don’t lead off the way people normally lead off, so for me it’s about being the best hitter you can possibly be, and I don’t think that always entails slapping the ball the other way and bunting, but in the two-hole you get more of those opportunities, and you need to be able to do that, and I did that a lot when I was a kid. I felt like I batted two, and when I was in Syracuse a lot I batted two, but it also depends who’s on first.
“If you have a faster guy that’s stealing bases then you need to take pitches, if you’ve got a guy that’s not stealing bases, then I don’t know if it necessarily matters, but I try to be the best hitter I can possibly be and I think that plays in all spots.”
After rehabbing from his injuries and working his way back in time to get a month-plus of at bats in before the postseason last season, Turner struggled in the NLDS, going 0 for 13 in the first three games against the Chicago Cubs and then connecting for three hits and two walks over the last two games as the Nationals lost in the Division Series for the fourth time in the last six seasons and the second time in a row.
“It’s never as bad as anybody makes it seem,” Turner said of his own and the Nationals’ postseason struggles.
“The last two years we’ve been one game away from moving on, and I think all three losses in ‘16 were by like one run or so, and I don’t think we got beat badly in the losses this year, I can’t remember off the top of my head, but it’s never as bad as it seems, you’ve just got to keep pushing and I think eventually things turn.”
Will we get to see what Turner can do with a full season of at bats in 2018? He said he’s 100% healthy after last summer’s issues and looking forward to seeing what he can do.
“My wrist hasn’t bothered me,” Turner said.
“Hamstring doesn’t bother me, nothing that was bothering me last year is bothering me now, I feel really good, feel refreshed, and it’s just a matter of staying healthy for 160 games.”