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With Turner out, Robles' batting order spot set

@JamalCollier
April 6, 2019

NEW YORK -- Trea Turner's absence with a broken right index finger leaves a hole in the Nationals lineup. Turner was slated to hit second, behind Adam Eaton, serving as a table setter in front of the middle of the Nats’ order. But Washington manager Dave Martinez has now moved

NEW YORK -- Trea Turner's absence with a broken right index finger leaves a hole in the Nationals lineup. Turner was slated to hit second, behind Adam Eaton, serving as a table setter in front of the middle of the Nats’ order. But Washington manager Dave Martinez has now moved Brian Dozier up in the lineup during Turner’s recovery.

But Martinez also contemplated moving Victor Robles, the club’s top prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 prospect in all of baseball, up in the lineup instead. He's decided against it for now.

“For right now. I want him to continue doing what he’s doing and put no pressure on him,” Martinez said. “Just let him go out and play.”

In his first six games, Robles is batting .300/.364/.750 with two home runs while hitting ninth in the Nats lineup, including a solo home run Thursday afternoon against Noah Syndergaard. Martinez likes him there because he serves as a second leadoff hitter and because he wants to avoid putting pressure on the talented young outfielder.

“He’s come up in situations, key situations, and he’s done really well,” Martinez said. “And I want him to continue to play the game. He’s still learning, he’s 21 years old, but he’s having fun, he’s doing the little things. We’re just trying to build up his confidence and let him play.”

However, Dozier has gotten off to a slow start, going 2-for-22 (.130) at the plate with no extra base hits in the first six games of the year. It’s not the start the Nats hoped one of their prime bounce-back candidates would have, but Martinez recognizes that it’s still early. Part of the reason he moved Dozier up to hit second is because he thinks he will see more fastballs, which could lead to him getting hot at the plate.

“I think right now, you’ve got to let him play, it’s early in the season,” Martinez said. “But he’s the kind of guy that once it clicks, he’ll start getting it and he’ll start hitting home runs like he always does. I’m not worried about Dozier, the biggest thing for him is to continue to play good defense, work good at-bats … and do your thing, you’re going to hit, you always have. I’m not worried, I don’t think he’s worried, but he’s going to help us.’

Taylor rehab update

Martinez declined to give a timetable for Michael A. Taylor’s return from a sprained left knee and hip, but Taylor is scheduled to play seven innings in the outfield on Saturday during his rehab assignment for Double-A Harrisburg. Taylor played one game Thursday and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts before Friday’s game was rained out.

The Nationals have not revealed when they are aiming for him to be activated from the injured list, and Martinez said it will depend on his health as he recovers.

“Only time will tell, we’ll see where’s he’s at,” Martinez said. “But he’s looking good, he feels good, we just want to get him some at-bats.”

Worth Noting

Jeremy Hellickson is slated to make his first start of the season Wednesday against the Phillies. He had been available in the bullpen at the start of year when Washington did not need a fifth starter because of the off-days in the schedule, so he has appeared in one game, tossing two innings on Tuesday night against the Phillies and surrendering two runs on three hits.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.