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Nats send Turner to begin rehab assignment

@JamalCollier
May 14, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Trea Turner began a Minor League rehab assignment with Class A Potomac on Tuesday night, batting second and playing shortstop in his first game action since April 2, when he landed on the injured list with a broken right index finger. Turner played all nine innings, going 1-for-4

WASHINGTON -- Trea Turner began a Minor League rehab assignment with Class A Potomac on Tuesday night, batting second and playing shortstop in his first game action since April 2, when he landed on the injured list with a broken right index finger.

Turner played all nine innings, going 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Before making the roughly one-hour drive to Potomac, Turner went through a pregame routine at Nationals Park, taking grounders at shortstop, throwing across the diamond and taking batting practice in the cage.

Once Turner’s finger felt good enough to resume throwing without discomfort this past week, the Nats decided he was ready to start playing in games. And although manager Dave Martinez declined to give any sort of timeline for Turner’s rehab assignment, Turner does not seem likely to need an extended stay in the Minors and could be ready to return to the Nationals' lineup by this weekend.

“Just let him go out there and really get in the feel of the game again,” Martinez said. “Seeing balls off the bat defensively, getting at-bats and just getting back in the swing of playing nine innings.”

Turner sustained the injury after being hit while squaring around on a bunt attempt on April 2, four games into the season. He had been off to a fast start at the plate, with five hits in 15 plate appearances, with two homers, four stolen bases and 0.5 Wins Above Replacement.

The Nationals certainly miss his presence, both in the lineup and on the field. Since Turner was placed on the injured list on April 3, Nationals shortstops have posted a slash line of .203/.271/.313, with a 52 wRC+.

The Nats first called up Carter Kieboom, the team’s top prospect per MLB Pipeline, but he struggled in his first 11 games in the big leagues, going 5-for-39 with 16 strikeouts and a minuscule 28 OPS+ while being charged with four errors in the field and -6 Defensive Runs Saved. He was optioned to the Minors last week. Wilmer Difo, the team’s other primary fill-in at shortstop, is batting .239/.301/.310 and is worth -0.7 WAR.

So Turner’s imminent return should provide a huge boost for a Nats team trying to turn around its season.

“He’s one of the premier players, and one that makes our lineup go,” Martinez said. “Our lineup misses him. His defense, everything, baserunning. He’s electric. So hopefully we get him back here fairly soon and plop him right back in that lineup and he gets us going.”

Zimmerman begins baseball activity

Ryan Zimmerman is starting to ease into baseball activities, an encouraging sign that the plantar fasciitis in his right foot is feeling much better just a few weeks after he landed on the injured list. Zimmerman took grounders at first base on Tuesday and performed some drills in the infield, a starting point to see how his foot reacts before he begins to ramp up activity.

Zimmerman has been on the injured list since April 28, and although an exact timeline remains unclear, he is encouraged by his progress.

“The one thing you don’t want to do is ramp it up too fast, and then you’re right back to where you started,” Zimmerman said. “We’ll see how it goes these next couple days. I wish I had a better answer for you, but again, just got to see how it goes the next day or two."

Worth noting

Trevor Rosenthal threw a bullpen session during Monday's off-day and continued his Minor League rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday night. He threw 26 pitches (12 strikes) in one scoreless inning, walking two and fanning one.

“He looked better. He looked like he was a little freer,” Martinez said. “His arm angle was up, so the biggest thing is, he was really working on his mechanics and he looked a lot better.”

Howie Kendrick is feeling better after battling a stiff neck this past weekend, but Martinez wanted to give Gerardo Parra a start at first base instead in the series opener vs. the Mets.

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