Trea Turner’s series in Citi Field this past weekend ended two innings after he was hit by a pitch on his left elbow. Turner, 27, got an X-ray on his elbow after he left the game, and he had a day off on Monday, before the Washington Nationals’ opener against Toronto’s Blue Jays on Tuesday night in Dunedin, FL’s TD Ballpark, so he was okay to go.
“I talked to him this morning,” manager Davey Martinez said before the first game of two in the Blue Jays’ temporary home.
“He’s still a little tender, but he said he feels fine. He was getting treatment. He’s going to go out and take batting practice. But he said he’s good to go, so he’ll be in the lineup tonight.”
Turner led off the game with a home run to left on the third pitch Blue Jays’ starter Trent Thornton threw, and followed up with a shot to left-center in the third inning, collecting home runs Nos. 5 & 6 of the 2021 campaign.
He took a fastball to the backside the third time up, but stayed in the game and finished up 2 for 4.
Guess the elbow is okay?
“I’m fine,” Turner said of the back-to-back games with HBPs.
“I think the off-day definitely helped. I was pretty sore when I got hit, and then yesterday a little bit, but today I felt much better, now I just got to get the swelling out of the arm, and hand, and wrist, and stuff, but, yeah, I feel pretty good.”
He managed fairly well considering he was playing with swelling in his elbow.
“There’s a little bit. I don’t know, there’s swelling there, but it is what it is, you just got to play,” he said.
Turner’s two-hit game left him 22 for 77 (.286/.337/.558) through 20 games and his 83 plate appearances in April, over which he hit three doubles and the six home runs, with just three walks and 20 Ks.
“He’s getting — he’s letting the ball travel a little deeper, he’s putting good swings on the ball, especially on balls up in the zone,” Martinez said, when asked what’s working for the shortstop.
“It’s good to see, and he’s having good at bats. For me, when Trea is really zoned in and hitting the ball in the middle of the field, he always has good at bats and hits the ball hard.”
“I’m just not missing pitches,” Turner said, in discussing his two-homer game and his start to his 2021 campaign.
“I felt like the two pitches I hit were with two strikes, so just stay in there and battle and try to get a mistake and put a good swing on it and they happened to go out of the ballpark.
“So, I feel like I’m headed in the right direction and just trying to become more consistent and have good at bats.”
It took Turner 117 plate appearances before he hit his sixth home run in 2020, 175 PAs in ‘19, and 204 in 2018. He hit his sixth in his 80th PA last night.
What’s behind the early-season power surge?
“I don’t know about the power,” Turner said, “... but I feel like the previous few series I was pitched really well. I feel like for the most part the whole year I’ve been pitched well, and haven’t had much to hit. I feel like I’m hitting with two strikes a lot.
“Haven’t been able to work walks, so just trying to battle. A few balls have gone out of the yard, I don’t think that’s anything different, just drive the baseball like I always try to do.
“Just trying to get back to last year and hit a little bit better with two strikes, not strike out too much, and see what happens.”
Turner is also barreling up the ball with more efficiency, with, as of Wednesday afternoon, a 12.5% Barrel% early in 2021, up from 5.8, 6.8, and 9.5% in the 2018-20 seasons, respectively.
What’s been different?
“I think it’s learning yourself, learning your own swing,” the seven-year veteran said.
“I think I’ve gotten simpler over the years, and I feel like in the past when I was simple I felt like I wasn’t ready to hit, and now I feel like I can be simple and I am still ready to hit if that makes sense. It’s just not moving your head, backing the ball up, and getting good pitches to hit and not missing them. And I think when you simplify and you do all those things, hopefully all your stats go up, hopefully your strike zone recognition gets better and you walk more, and you hit more extra base hits and you hit for a higher average and all of these things. I think it’s just maturing and understanding how to be consistent, which is an ongoing thing, it’s never solved, but the last two or three years I feel like I’ve been way more consistent at the plate because of multiple things.”
Turner’s barreling up the ball, and hitting them out of the yard, and doing so when he’s not seeing too many good pitches, or strikes. He’s still got a 35.1% Sweet Spot% (up from 30.7% career average), and his Hardhit% (49.1%) is up as well (from 42% in 2019 and 40.7 last year).
How have opposing pitchers been attacking him? Are they pounding him outside? Is there a pattern to their approach against him?
“You got to move the ball around the plate, it’s not one pitch per se,” he said.
“I just feel like they’ve been kind of on the outer edge of the box, there’s not much to hit in the middle of the plate, in the middle of the zone, and that will come and go.
“You got to tip your cap when they make good pitches, but I think you need to be aware of that, because you can get yourself in a funk and feel like you’re hitting really bad but they can be pitching you well, so it’s just pay attention and try to learn.”
Turner wrapped up the road trip with a four-hit game in the second of two with the Blue Jays on Wednesday, leaving him 26 for 82 (.317/.364/.585) on the season.
“I think I got a little lucky on some of the hits tonight, but I felt like just overall my at bats are starting to get a little better,” Turner said.
“Like I said yesterday,” he added, “want to avoid the strikeouts and whatnot. And I felt like today I actually didn’t have to hit with two strikes too too much, which was good, and then some hits fell, so it’s nice to build that momentum and keep it going, and know that what I’m working on is kind of producing, I guess.”
What does he think he still needs to work on and improve after 21 games this season?
“Just the strikeouts really, strikeouts and walks,” Turner said. “I’d like to walk a little bit more and strike out less.
“That last at bat is kind of what bother me a little bit is chasing that pitch 3-2 and having a strikeout instead I should be walking down to first base. So, it’s small things.
“For me, it’s just keep doing what I’m doing, stay where I’m at, and go through ups and downs and whatnot, I’m sure on Friday I can go 0 for 4 very easily, but just to know that the process is working and to feel like I’m having good at bats, I think is good enough for me.”