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On Washington Nationals’ Trea Turner; early-season power + maturity; and more...

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Trea Turner is on pace to set single-season mark in homers, and he feels good at the plate early in 2021.

Washington Nationals v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Trea Turner hit six home runs in his first 20 games this season, and the 27-year-old shortstop talked after a two-home run game on April 27th about his early-season power, and what was behind his surge.

“I’m just not missing pitches,” the infielder said. “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.”

“I don’t know about the power,” he added.

“But I feel like the previous few series I was pitched [to] 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.”

With a solo shot on Monday night in Wrigley Field, Turner was up to 10 home runs this year, in 37 games and 161 plate appearances, and, as the Nats’ noted on Twitter, he was on pace for 43 in 2021, which would far surpass his previous season of 19 (in both 2018 and ‘19).

“I think he’s getting in a good position to hit the ball hard, consistently,” Davey Martinez said in his pregame Zoom call before the second game of four with the Cubs in Wrigley Field this week.

“That’s been the key for him. He’s recognizing pitches early, and you see what he can do when he does that.

“Not by any means, I always tell him, I said, ‘Hey, just remember, you’re a guy that goes gap-to-gap.’ He’s got power to right-center field as we all know and we’ve seen, so just stay through the middle of the field, and when you’ve got a good pitch to hit, middle-in, be ready for it, and he’s been doing that.”

What does the fact that he’s hitting homers on pitches in different spots in the zone, and out to all fields, tell his manager?

“He’s getting himself in a good position to hit every pitch,” Martinez reiterated. “He’s not giving away any pitches or any at bats, which is really, really nice, he’s staying consistent. If he continues to do that, I’ve said this before, I view Trea as a candidate for MVP. He’s that kind of player. But he’s doing well and he’s giving us every opportunity to win a game, so having him lead off and playing shortstop the way he’s been playing has been awesome.”

While he didn’t necessarily give away at bats in previous seasons, Martinez said the shortstop has shown signs of growth in each of their four seasons together so far.

“I think he understands who he is and what player he is, and he’s starting to understand the strike zone, and starting to understand a lot more what balls that he can hit and hit hard and far. That comes with maturity, and I’ve said this before, that every year since I’ve been here he’s matured a lot every year, every single year.”

“I think it’s learning yourself, learning your own swing,” Turner said back in late April.

“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.”