Martinez explains his opening day batting order decision

CINCINNATI - Davey Martinez had been thinking about his opening day lineup for some time. He had scribbled out different varieties, with and without players who were trying to return from injuries this spring. And once he knew for sure who he'd have available to him for today's game at Great American Ball Park, he didn't hesitate to write it down in pen on his first official lineup card as a big league manager.

Even if it had Trea Turner batting sixth.

That unconventional decision surely caught some by surprise this morning when the Nationals announced their first lineup of 2018, but Martinez had offered some hints late in spring training, including on the final day of the Grapefruit League schedule, when the speedy Turner was batting sixth in West Palm Beach.

trea-turner-bat-blue-back.jpgMartinez's rationale for Turner's lineup position, behind Howie Kendrick and ahead of Michael A. Taylor?

"I like him there because he's a pure hitter," the rookie manager said. "He doesn't have to worry about getting on base. He has to just worry about hitting. If he gets his walks, great. But I want him just worrying about hitting the ball, get on base, cause havoc. With him and Taylor hitting back-to-back, I thought that would work really well."

When spring training commenced, the Nationals had conversations with the typically aggressive Turner about trying to work the count more, a trait expected of top-of-the-order batters. Turner did draw some more walks, but he also felt constrained by the approach.

"I struck out a lot during spring training," he said. "I felt like I was hitting with two strikes every at-bat. I had a few at-bats where I went from 0-2 to walk. I felt like a lot of times I could end an at-bat with a first-pitch fastball down the middle, or a 1-0 fastball down the middle, and I was trying to be patient. I don't think it necessarily benefited me. I felt like the last week or two I was trying to be a little bit more aggressive, and I felt better."

It's the first time Turner has hit sixth in his big league career, though he did bat seventh or eighth a couple of times as a rookie.

"Nothing changes for me," he said. "I've always wanted to be the best hitter I can be. I don't care if you're leading off or sixth, they're going to pitch you however they can get you out. Whether it's heaters, sliders, balls, strikes, they're going to try to get you out. For me, nothing changes. I have to swing at good pitches. And if you do, you'll be fine."

Martinez's rationale also involved making sure Anthony Rendon was hitting near the top of the order. After often batting fifth or sixth last season, today he's in the 2-spot, where he enjoyed significant success earlier in his career.

"For me, you don't want to get to the end of the game and have one of your best hitters on deck and not get a chance to get up," the manager said. "So for me, it's trying to get him that extra at-bat."

This arrangement won't necessarily be permanent. Martinez has said all along he'll set lineups based on daily matchups and information. There may be times when the pitcher bats ninth. There may be times when Turner moves back to the top of the lineup.

"These things are not set in stone," he said. "You may see something different. But I like the way we're set up right now. Hopefully, the guys up top get us going. But if not, hopefully the guys in the middle and in the bottom can create a different dimension to our game."

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