Turner activated after missing 38 games

Nats' leadoff man singles in first at-bat back from finger injury

May 17th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals activated shortstop from the injured list Friday, inserting one of baseball's most dynamic and electric players back atop a lineup that is getting closer to full strength. Turner led off with a single for the Nationals and went 2-for-5 in Friday's 14-6 loss to the Cubs at Nationals Park after missing 38 games with a broken right index finger.

"It was real nice to write his name in the lineup," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "He's been itching to get back as we all know. He's excited to be back. No expectations. I told him to go out there and play the game and do what you do best."

Turner only appeared in the first four games of the season for the Nationals, but he had been off to a red-hot start, going 5-for-14 with two homers and four stolen bases. Then the finger was broken after getting hit when he squared around on a bunt attempt on April 2 against the Phillies, although Turner has said this injury won't scare him away from attempting bunts in the future.

"It's like, you're scared to dive and then you dive and you're all right," Turner said. "For me, it's just a confidence thing. Just continue to play baseball. If I need to do something, I'll do it."

During his stint on the injured list, Turner tried to do as much baseball activity as possible without affecting the injury. He continued to run sprints and around the bases to keep his legs in shape. He fielded grounders at shortstop even when he could not throw the ball across the diamond. He tracked pitches against a pitching machine to keep his eye sharp.

So, Martinez was hopeful Turner wouldn't need much time to knock the rust off. He played in two Minor League rehab games with Class A Advanced Potomac this week, batting 1-for-8 while playing all nine innings at shortstop in each game before taking Thursday off to work out with the team.

"It's just more confidence than anything," Turner said. "My finger's felt good doing baseball activity, but it's a matter of testing it, getting in a game, check-swinging or doing those things, being able to turn a double play. I feel like I was tested a lot of different ways down there, so it was good to get that confidence, and now I don't second-guess it."

Turner's absence has certainly been felt in the Nationals' lineup.

His replacements, mainly and top prospect , both struggled enough that they were optioned to Triple-A Fresno -- Kieboom last week and Difo on Friday. Overall, Nats shortstops entered the day posting a combined minus-0.4 Wins Above Replacement, tied with the Indians and Marlins for the worst in the Majors.

Difo's demotion over infielder came as a bit of a surprise, but Difo has been off to rough start this season. Although usually a light hitter, Difo's .598 OPS through 39 games is on pace for a career low (aside from his abbreviated stint in the big leagues in 2015), and he has been worth minus-0.3 WAR. So the Nats want him to play every day in the Minors before he works his way back to Washington.

"It's an ability for him to continue to play, and then when we need him, he's had the at-bats and he's right back where he left off," Martinez said. "For him just to sit there, I don't think people realize how young Difo [27] still is. We just want him to play and keep playing. When we need him again, he's been playing, it's not like he's been sitting there and all of a sudden you plop him back in. He'll be back here at some point, I know."

Sanchez to IL, McGowin called up
The Nationals also placed right-hander on the 10-day injured list, a day after he strained his left hamstring in the second inning of Thursday's 7-6 win over the Mets. Sanchez is scheduled to receive an MRI to determine the severity of his strain, but Martinez said the Nationals wanted to wait and see how he felt Friday. Sanchez was barely able to walk without pain when leaving Nationals Park on Thursday, so the club was encouraged he at least was feeling better Friday.

was promoted from Triple-A to give the Nationals an extra arm in the bullpen the next few days before they have to make a decision on a fifth starter. is perhaps the favorite to make that start, but McGowin could also be a candidate. In eight starts for Fresno this season, he has posted a 4.32 ERA but with 50 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings. Last season was the best of his career in the Minors, with a 2.80 ERA in 23 starts that earned him a September callup.

Worth noting
• Ryan Zimmerman (foot) has started participating in some baseball activities, fielding grounders at first base and taking batting practice on the field Friday. Martinez was hopeful Zimmerman could start running this weekend.

• Matt Adams began some activity Friday, playing catch on the field and swinging a fungo in his first action since a shoulder injury a few weeks ago. If all goes well, he could begin hitting on the field next week.

• Tony Sipp is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League rehab game on Saturday for Potomac.