Had Trea Turner suffered a mild right hamstring strain on April 8, 2016, the Nationals might well have waited a week to let him heal and then put him back in their lineup, avoiding a 15-day stint on the disabled list.
But because Turner suffered his injury on April 8, 2017, and because Major League Baseball has turned the 15-day DL into the 10-day DL, the Nationals decided not to waste any time and shelved their leadoff man and shortstop now.
Turner was placed on the DL this afternoon, a transaction that was backdated to Sunday. Which means he’ll be eligible to return as soon as April 19 and - thanks to a pair of off-days coming up - could miss as few as eight games with this injury.
“I think baseball did one of the best things they’ve done in a long time, which was to cut the DL from 15 days to 10 days,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Plus, speed is a major part of his game. If we didn’t nip it in the bud right now, it might be bothering him all year long. And you don’t want this thing to reoccur early in the season. ... So this is the prime time, we thought, to do it.”
Outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who had just been optioned to Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday, was recalled and will take Turner’s spot, eligible to return to the majors in fewer than the typically requisite 10 days because he’s replacing an injured teammate.
The Nationals initially hoped Turner’s injury wasn’t significant enough to cause him to miss more than a couple games, but his hamstring remains tight 48 hours after he got hurt stealing second base in Philadelphia.
The 23-year-old wasn’t exactly thrilled with the decision but said he understands why the Nationals did it.
“I think it’s mixed,” he said. “Obviously I don’t want to hurt my team. If I can’t do something, I can’t do something, and I don’t want to be stubborn about it. But I think also going on the DL could be good. I can’t rush back. I can’t do anything stupid. So I think it’s probably good for me, because I definitely think I would have tried to talk my way back in.”
Turner actually was off to a sluggish start to his first full big league season, going 3-for-19 with zero walks and seven strikeouts. He did, however, have three stolen bases (or for each time he successfully reached) and looked impressive at shortstop after making the switch from center field this spring.
With Turner shelved for 10 days, Adam Eaton (who is sporting a .444 on-base percentage) moves into the leadoff spot. Stephen Drew started at shortstop on Sunday and is there again tonight against the Cardinals, though Baker said Wilmer Difo is slated to start Tuesday night, with Drew returning to the lineup Wednesday afternoon.
“Stephen’s not going to get the call every day, cause I don’t want to break him down, either,” the manager said. “When’s the last time he played 10 days in a row? So Stephen is playing today, but he’s not playing tomorrow, so he can play in that early game on Wednesday. I’ll go with who I think is the best lineup on that day against who is pitching for us and who’s pitching against us.”