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Building a better Trea Turner: Davey Martinez on room for improvement in the Nationals’ shortstop’s game...

Davey Martinez wants Trea Turner to run more and maybe win a Gold Glove in 2019. How are they going about working on Turner’s game?

Washington Nationals Photo Day Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Davey Martinez has talked since the start of Spring Training about trying to get more out of Trea Turner this season. He won’t likely get more out of Turner in terms of games played.

In fact, he said he probably should have given the 25-year-old shortstop, who played in all 162 games last season, starting 158, a few more days off in 2018.

He does think that there is still plenty of room for improvement in Turner’s game after a big season for the infielder, who put up a .271/.344/.416 line, a National League-high 43 stolen bases, in 52 attempts, career-highs in doubles (27), homers (19), runs scored (103), and RBIs (73), and 105 wRC+ over 740 plate appearances in a 4.8 fWAR campaign, which was actually the third-highest fWAR among NL shortstops in 2018.

“He’s exciting,” Martinez said as Spring Training began. “We let the reins go when he’s going. He’s on his own. He can steal when he wants, he knows that. I kind of put the pressure on him a little bit about maybe having more attempts. If you look at the best baserunners to ever play the game, those guys had 90-100 attempts every year.

“And last year he had 54 [attempts] and he stole 46-47 bases,” 52 attempts and 43 stolen bases, actually, “... so we want him to go more, and I think the more he goes, the more bases he’ll steal, but he’s exciting and he’s getting better at shortstop. I told everybody last year, and I really believe that he was an All-Star, and he’s going to be an All-Star, because he keeps improving. I see him now and he’s all in. He’s the one guy in camp right now that I’m watching and he’s jacked up, he’s ready to go and he’s excited about it.”

While he didn’t share a number of how many bases he thinks Turner can steal, Martinez has stressed, on several occasions this Spring, that he wants to see more attempts.

“I think if he attempts 75-80 we’ll be in great shape,” the second-year skipper said.

Turner’s reaction to being told that the reins would be loosened further, considering he was one of the few players who’s had a green light to run whenever he can?

“Any time a coach pushes you to do something that you think is a little crazy, I think that’s them believing in you that you can do it,” Turner told reporters this Spring, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty.

It’s possible. It’s still a lot, but it’s possible. I think I’m going to have to do a lot of things right, and hopefully get a shot at accomplishing it.”

“For me it’s just build off of what he did last year,” Martinez continued. “I told him he’s got a great game plan coming into Spring, and we’re going to hone in on just the things he needs to hone in on and he knows he wants to get better [at]. I challenged him to win a Gold Glove, and just keep continuing to get on base and work good at bats. And then I said as far as stealing, I said, ‘You’re going to steal a lot more bases if you attempt a lot more stolen bases.

“Last year he had [52 attempts]. If he gets up to that 75, attempts 75 times, he’ll steal 65-70 bases, and that would be great, if he does anything more than that it would be great.”

“We’ll talk about that and we’ll talk about his leads and different things like that,” Martinez said, when asked about stolen base percentage after Turner put up an 83% SB% last year, getting caught, on average, once in every six attempts.

His SB% was the third-highest in the majors among players with at least 30 stolen bases in 2018, tied with Mookie Betts (who stole 30 bases), behind only Jonathan Villar (35 SB, 88% CS%), and Jose Ramirez (34 SB, 85% SB%).

“The biggest thing for me is a lot of times last year he stole the base and over-slid the base.

“And that was kind of a little concern last year,” the manager added, “... and we’re trying to work this Spring on getting him to slide directly to the base, instead of like he likes to slide headfirst and around the base like that and that’s when he usually comes off.”

“To me you have to be an 80%, the great ones are 80-85%,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last week.

“When Trea gets a good jump he’s going to be safe, and he’s one of those special type of baserunners that if he gets a good jump it’s going to be really, really difficult to throw him out, and we have a handful of those guys here this year when you talk about [Victor] Robles and [Michael A.] Taylor, and Turner, and [Wilmer] Difo, those guys can steal bases and they’re really, really fast, and we think that we’ve improved our speed, our base-stealing ability, but you have to be smart.

“We want you to steal bases when they mean something and 80 bases is great, but if 30 of them are when you’re up or down 5-0 it doesn’t have the impact for me.

“To me the great base stealers are great when everybody in the ballpark knows that you’re going to steal and you can still steal a base.”

You have to get on base to have an opportunity to steal one, of course, and Martinez said that was one area Turner improved upon last year as well.

“Trea made an adjustment last year,” Martinez explained, “... and his on-base — his biggest thing was on-base percentage, just getting on base, and he did a lot better last year with that, and having him on top of our lineup, between him and [Adam] Eaton, they make us go and I haven’t decided what’s going to happen with that, but I do like Trea right now up there.”

Will Turner lead off this season? Martinez reiterated, as quoted by the WaPost again, that he does like what Turner offers up top.

“I like the fact that Trea will get on base, he can steal, will not have to worry about hitting in front of [Anthony] Rendon early,” Martinez said. “And Adam [Eaton], who can hit the hole with the best of them there, to pull the ball and get the ball in the hole, for me it’s about scoring runs early in the game, and those two guys make it happen.”

As for his challenge to Turner to win a Gold Glove? Martinez talked late last month about where the infielder can improve on defense.

“It’s just about being consistent all the time,” Martinez said. “A lot of times last year, and he knows it, he made some errors that he shouldn’t have, just by being a little bit careless, trying to be too quick, and I told him, I said, ‘Hey, those things happen, they do,’ I said, ‘but you’re aware of it and you’ve just got to continue to keep working. I mean he’s gotten so much better, even watching him this Spring on the way he comes and gets balls, his footwork, everything, he’s been really good, and him and [Tim Bogar] have been working daily, every day. They had a great session the other day when he didn’t go on the road, and Bogie said he looked great.”