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Turner impresses in first MLB start -- at second

Natural shortstop and No. 2 Nats prospect makes dazzling play

WASHINGTON -- Trea Turner made his first Major League start on Friday night, and the natural shortstop showed impressive defensive ability at second base in the Nationals' 4-3 loss to the Marlins.

In the sixth inning, Turner, the No. 2 prospect in the Nationals' system and 11th-ranked prospect in all of baseball, covered a lot of ground toward the right-field foul line and made an over-the-shoulder catch on a Marcell Ozuna pop fly into the Bermuda Triangle in shallow right field. According to Statcast™, Turner ran up to 20.6 mph and covered 107.4 feet to make the grab.

"I know from experience, when you play short your whole life and you go to second and you got to catch that fly ball down the right-field line, everything spins opposite," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "I know that play is a lot harder than he made it look, and he ran a heck of a long way. So that was good."

A South Florida native, Turner grew up a Marlins fan, and the coincidence of his first Major League start coming against Miami wasn't lost on him. Before the game, he vividly recalled sitting in the upper deck during the Marlins' World Series run in 2003.

"They'd look so far away and whatnot, and now you're actually on the field, so it's kind of funny," Turner said. "Still getting used to the game obviously. I've had minimal at-bats and just a few innings in the field. Got to get used to it still. It's baseball. Same game, just better competition."

Turner was able to get his feet wet right from the start when Marlins speedster Dee Gordon grounded a slow roller right to Turner in the game's first at-bat.

"I was looking for an easy play," Turner said. "Right off the bat, even with Dee Gordon running, that wasn't a comfortable play. And then I got a lot of other plays that I wouldn't call routine. I was just happy to play some good defense behind Max [Scherzer] and get some outs for him. I think that's what we have to do down the stretch, the small things -- just play good defense and obviously timely hitting."

In the third, Turner ranged toward first base, fielded off his hip, spun and fired to first to end the inning.

"Good range," manager Matt Williams said. "The one popup that he went and got ... he's got a lot of speed. He was able to go get that one. I think he handled himself just fine."

Turner batted eighth and played seven innings before being removed in a double-switch. He went 0-for-3 at the plate, moving his total to 0-for-8 since being called up last Friday for his first big league assignment.

"I felt good tonight," Turner said. "Some tough at-bats. Got a lot of guys throwing 95 [mph], even the starter. You just have to battle. I hit with two strikes, I think twice. I put some barrel on the ball just under a few of them, but that's how baseball goes. You can hit the ball hard four times right at people and go 0-for-4. You can hit it soft four times and go 4-for-4. It's not always the box score, it doesn't always tell everything, and that's kind of how I feel. But I feel good out there. Not worried about the 0-for-3."

With Yunel Escobar out on a day-to-day basis and Danny Espinosa helping out in left field, Turner could see another start on Saturday.

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for
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