CLEVELAND - Trea Turner had been standing out in center field in a big league game for all of two minutes when the first ball came his way. It was a drive to the gap in right-center by the Indians’ Jason Kipnis, and though Turner ran a good route in an attempt to make the play, he pulled up ever so slightly at the fence and couldn’t do much as the ball struck the warning track and bounced over the fence for a ground rule double.
Then, fewer than 10 minutes later, it happened again. Jose Ramirez drove a ball to a similar part of the gap in right-center, though this time with a bit more air under it. And this time, Turner got there to make the catch just before banging into the fence.
One career inning in center field, two difficult plays. Of course that was going to happen, right?
“Yeah, that’s how it works,” Turner said. “I think anytime anybody plays a new position, that’s what happens. I think that happened to me in Syracuse. I kind of expect that.”
Though he got six games of practice earlier in the month at Triple-A, last night was Turner’s first game action in the outfield in the majors. The verdict: He did pretty well, but there were a couple moments where his inexperience showed.
Perhaps the most notable example of the latter came during part of the late-inning meltdown that cost the Nationals the game. Kipnis led off the bottom of the eighth with a blooper into shallow center field. Turner came charging in and, thinking he could get there in time, he elected to dive headfirst.
He didn’t get there in time, though, and so the ball landed in front of him, then scooted past him. Kipnis wound up on second base and eventually would score.
In hindsight, Turner said he wished he hadn’t made the diving attempt.
“I didn’t think it was going to bounce that far, being softly hit,” he said. “But me and (Jayson Werth) talked it over, and it is what it is. I’ll learn from it and hopefully not make that mistake.”
Turner’s real contributions in the game came at the plate, where he drew a walk, stole a base, beat out what looked like a fairly routine grounder to second and perhaps forced an error on Cleveland first baseman Mike Napoli with his threat of speed.
That offensive performance, combined with his flashes of strong play in the outfield, left manager Dusty Baker pleased with the overall picture for his dynamic 22-year-old.
“He was good,” Baker said. “He was real good. He covered some ground. He’ll get better and better.”