Aug 29, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
The first start of any major leaguer’s career is going to feature its share of butterflies-in-the-stomach moments, only more so when that start comes at an unfamiliar position.
Trea Turner, though, acquitted himself well Friday night in the first start of his Nationals career, even though it came not at his natural shortstop position but on the other side of the diamond at second base.
With the Nationals reeling from a spate of injuries, Friday night’s defensive lineup featured all sorts of characters in odd places: Danny Espinosa in left field, Bryce Harper in center field and Turner at second base. The rookie only began learning the position last week while still at Class AAA Syracuse, but he has taken a crash course since.
And he hardly looked uncomfortable in the game, making several tough plays that can’t really be simulated: a grounder well to his left that required a tough throw across his body, a foul-pop way down the first-base line.
And then, the first at-bat of the game, when Dee Gordon sent a routine grounder to second, with Turner needing to hurry the throw to get the speedy Marlins leadoff man.
“Obviously, when you take groundballs [during practice], you don’t have a runner running,” he said. “So the very first one, Dee Gordon out there, you had to rush it a little bit. And the same with the popups down the line. It’s hard to recreate those, so you just have to slow it down and complete the play.”
Turner was able to do just that, impressing his teammates and coaches.
“I know from experience, when you play short your whole life and you go to second and you’ve got to catch that fly ball down the right-field line, everything spins opposite,” said shortstop Ian Desmond, who played five games at second base as a rookie in 2009 but hasn’t been back there since. “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.
“And then the next one was good, too. The play he spun in the hole on the grounder, he looked great. He’s got it. I can’t wait for him to get his first hit, and I want to watch him run. He’s a fast little whipper-snapper.”
Indeed, at the plate Turner has yet to deliver. After an 0-for-3 showing Friday night, he’s now 0-for-8 overall in his first week in the majors, though he did send a hard liner to right field in the second inning that was caught by Ichiro Suzuki.
“I felt good tonight,” he said. “Some tough at-bats. Got a lot of guys throwing 95, 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. … 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. I was glad to play some good defense behind Max [Scherzer] and help any way I can.”
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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