CINCINNATI -- Throughout the spring, Nationals first-year manager Dave Martinez has come up with a few different lineup combinations. Ultimately when he filled out his first lineup of the season, for Friday's season opener against the Reds, it included an unconventional choice -- and not for the last time.Trea Turner,
CINCINNATI -- Throughout the spring, Nationals first-year manager Dave Martinez has come up with a few different lineup combinations. Ultimately when he filled out his first lineup of the season, for Friday's season opener against the Reds, it included an unconventional choice -- and not for the last time.
Trea Turner, who spent nearly all of last season and virtually his entire career as the leadoff hitter, started a game batting sixth for the first time in his career. That pushed Anthony Rendon up to the second spot in the lineup, which Martinez likes because he's able to get him more at-bats.
Hitting Turner lower in the lineup, Martinez believes, will free him up to focus on being a complete hitter.
"I like him there because he's a pure hitter," Martinez said. "He doesn't have to worry about getting on base. He has to just worry about hitting. If he gets his walks, great. But I want him just worrying about hitting the ball, get on base, cause havoc. With him and [Michael A.] Taylor hitting back to back, I thought that would work really well."
The lineup is unconventional because of Turner's speed. In just 98 games last season, he set a Nationals record by swiping 46 bases. However, he is not a conventional leadoff hitter -- he rarely walks and prefers to swing early in the count. Turner has been vocal in the past about being a more complete player than simply relying on his speed -- he surprised during his rookie season in 2016 by hitting 13 home runs in 73 games.
"I thought about it for a while," Martinez said. "These things are not set in stone, you may see something different. But I like the way we're set up right now. Hopefully the guys up top get us going, but if not, hopefully the guys in the middle and in the bottom can create a different dimension to our game."
Meanwhile, Turner maintained that he will change nothing about his approach by batting lower in the lineup.
"I feel like everyone puts a lot of question on me, what I'm going to do offensively, but I'd like to affect the game in a lot of ways," Turner said. "If I can walk, I walk. If I can hit a homer, if I can bunt. I'm not planning on doing anything other than trying to be as best I can."
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.