Nats may activate Turner for Cubs series

May 16th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Trea Turner went through a full workout at Nationals Park on Thursday afternoon, taking batting practice and fielding grounders with the Nationals, fresh off playing in back-to-back Minor League rehab games the past two nights.

Turner went 1-for-8 with four strikeouts in two games for Class A Advanced Potomac where he played nine innings at shortstop in both games in a test for his broken right index finger. And although manager Dave Martinez would not commit to either way Thursday, Turner seems almost certain to be activated from the injured list for this weekend’s three-game series with the Cubs.

“He says he feels good,” Martinez said. “The biggest thing now is game speed. That’s why we wanted him to go down there and play, so that he’s on the field: getting down, getting up and getting in the game, getting balls hit at him 100 mph and just play. I think that’s the big difference you don’t realize it after missing so much time. Even missing 10 days, the game gets quick.”

Turner has been sidelined since April 2, when he broke his finger while squaring around on a bunt attempt against the Phillies. He only appeared in four games before the injury, but had started the season 5-for-14 with a pair of homers and four stolen bases. Martinez never thought Turner would require a long rehab assignment considering he was able to continue running, fielding grounders (even without throwing) and tracking pitches off a pitching machine even when he was on the injured list.

Because he has missed so much time, it is possible the Nationals will want him to play more games in the Minors to work on his timing at the plate, something Martinez has cautioned players against in the past returning from injury. Take Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto’s recent return from the injured list as caution. Soto entered Thursday’s series finale against the Mets hitting just 2-for-14 with seven strikeouts in four games since returning from the IL with back spasms. Rendon started off 3-for-22 with seven strikeouts in his first six games since coming off the injured list, but has started to find form against the Mets, going 5-for-7 with three doubles in the first two games of this series.

However, the Nationals have found themselves struggling to replace Turner in his absence. Top prospect Carter Kieboom and Wilmer Difo are the two players the Nats have primarily used to replace Turner, and both have been among their least productive. Kieboom was hitting .128/.209/.282 with -0.3 Wins Above Replacement in 11 games before being optioned back to Triple-A. Difo is batting .235/.295/.303 with -0.3 WAR in 38 games.

So, Turner’s return will likely represent a huge upgrade, even if he is still knocking off some rust from the time off.

“I told him when you come back we’re not expecting you to make the 'woo' play,” Martinez said. “We just want you to go out there and make the routine plays, turn double plays and just be yourself. The biggest thing for him offensively, take your walks and just get on base. When you get on base, good things will happen.”

Worth noting
Trevor Rosenthal is scheduled to continue his Minor League rehab assignment by pitching in back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday for the first time.