Aug 21, 2015, 5:50 PM EDT
[Updated: 5:50 p.m.]
Needing a right-handed bat for their bench and a boost for the pennant race, the Nationals have called up top prospect Trea Turner on the first day of a long homestand.
Bench player Tyler Moore was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left ankle sprain as the corresponding move. The team moved reliever Aaron Barrett (right elbow strain) to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
Turner, 22, is considered the top position player prospect in the organization. A first round pick in 2014, the shortstop joined the Nationals this past offseason in a trade with the San Diego Padres.
Turner received the unexpected news on Thursday when Syracuse Chiefs manager Billy Gardner called him. Turner, however, didn’t pick up the first time as he didn’t recognize the number – he had not saved it in his phone – and he was in the middle of a movie.
Turner was with his teammates at a theater on their off-day watching the movie ‘Straight Outta Compton.’ Who knew the nickname ‘Trea Day’ that Nats fans had used all season would be so prescient?
When Gardner called a second time, Turner walked outside to pick it up.
“He actually just asked me if I’ve ever been to Washington, D.C. before and let me know I was going back there because I had visited once when I was younger. We were watching the new movie ‘Straight Outta Compton.’ It was actually a very good movie, but it made it a little bit better getting that news,” he said.
Turner began the season in the Padres’ organization before jumping to the Nationals in June due to a now-extinct rule that prevented players from getting traded within a year after they were drafted. Despite all of that, he has thrived this season with a .322 average, eight homers and 54 RBI in 116 total minor league games.
After leaving Double-A San Antonio, a Padres affiliate, Turner joined the Double-A Harrisburg Senators and hit .359 in 10 games. The Nats then promoted him to Triple-A Syracuse where he batted .314 with three homers, 15 RBI, 31 runs and 14 steals in 48 games.
Now he is in the majors at just 22 years old.
“The last 24 hours have been wild, obviously. Getting the news and having to tell my parents, which was obviously a great feeling. My girlfriend and all that. It’s been wild. Dream come true and I’m just trying to enjoy every moment of it,” he said.
Turner had worked exclusively at shortstop in his minor league career until this week when the Nats played him twice at second base. He now joins a Nationals roster with a crowded group of infielders that already includes Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Anthony Rendon.
Turner doesn’t know yet what his role will be with the Nats, but is prepared for whatever they ask.
“They just told me to get ready and kind of approach every game like I would anywhere else. I’m just trying to do whatever I can, whatever they need me to. If it’s pinch-running, defense, it doesn’t matter to me. If I get a start here and there, that’s alright. Whatever they need me to,” he said.
“We’re not expecting to be the savior of the offense or the savior of the ball club,” GM Mike Rizzo said. “We just want him to do what he does his best, add his skill set to Matt Williams’ arsenal of tools to win baseball games.”
Turner has very little experience playing second base, but did take grounders on the field before Friday’s game to practice. Both he and the Nats feel comfortable with him playing at second if the situation arises.
“It’s different,” he said. “But I trust myself to do any of it; outfield, infield, whatever. You gotta have confidence in it and, like I said, you gotta prepare and get out there and make sure you’re ready for the moment. I’ll try to be out there and work on it as much as I can.”
Ian Desmond, in particular, could be most affected in the long-term by Turner’s presence on the roster. Desmond is in the final year of his contract and Turner is projected as the future shortstop in the event the veteran leaves in free agency.
Desmond was asked about that dynamic on Friday and said he wishes Turner nothing but the best.
“Being a middle infielder, it’s like a fraternity so anytime another guy gets called up you’re obviously happy for him,” he said. “This is about winning right now. There’s no personal agendas here. This is about the Nationals and getting Ws and that’s got to be our focus.”
Turner said a host of his closest friends and family members will travel to Washington in anticipation of his MLB debut.
“I actually have a lot of people, a lot more than I thought. A lot of friends, college coach, parents, girlfriend, maybe some aunts and uncles. I’m not even sure right now, but a lot of people are coming. It makes me feel good because they’re probably just as excited as I am and they’ve always wanted to experience this with me, so I’m glad they get the chance,” he said.
The Nationals acquired Turner in a three-team deal that sent outfielder Steven Souza, Jr. to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Nats also received starting pitcher Joe Ross in the Dec. 19 trade.
With Ross already finding success in the majors, and with Turner now set to debut, the trade looks very good for the Nationals in retrospect.
“A very good trade for us,” Matt Williams said. “Key guys in key positions potentially for us that help us win. Those are very talented young men.”
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