Promoted from Triple-A Syracuse along with Michael A. Taylor to replace the injured Ryan Zimmerman and just-demoted Lucas Giolito, Turner will give manager Dusty Baker plenty of options, particularly now that he has begun working in center field. But Baker suggested today he’ll still pick his spots for using Turner, most likely in the infield for now.
“Right now, Trea has to fit in where you get in,” Baker said. “And right now, there’s no real place for Trea to take. This isn’t a tryout camp. This is trying to play the best team overall to win the game, to win the pennant, and hopefully Trea will be a part of that while he’s here.”
Baker didn’t outline a specific plan, but he suggested Clint Robinson will get most starts at first base against right-handers with Zimmerman out, which would leave Daniel Murphy at second base. Murphy could still slide over to first base at times, opening up second base for Turner, who also could give Danny Espinosa days off at shortstop and Ben Revere days off in center field.
Turner said the outfield experiment has gone well so far, and “if it’s something that can help the team or whatever it may be, then I’m all for it.”
The 23-year-old was hitting .302 with a .370 on-base percentage, 22 doubles, six homers and 25 steals in 27 attempts at Syracuse, prompting general manager Mike Rizzo to declare him big-league-ready from an offensive standpoint. Turner feels he has made significant strides in the field this season, though, perhaps the last hurdle toward his permanent promotion.
“I think I’ve played a lot better defense in the last 100-200 tries I’ve gotten over there at shortstop,” he said. “I think I’ve played a lot better, a lot more consistent, made a lot better plays that I wouldn’t have made last year. I think I’m doing better on the basepaths when opportunities present themselves. And I think the at-bats are getting better as well. So, I’m pretty happy with how the last month-and-a-half has gone.”
Zimmerman, meanwhile, heads to the disabled list for the sixth consecutive season, this time with a strained left ribcage muscle. The 31-year-old said the injury occurred during his third at-bat Wednesday against the Brewers, and though he hoped he could return within a day or two, it wasn’t worth the risk, especially with the Nats playing short-handed.
“We were in such a bad spot with a short bench, needing some people up here,” he said. “And having the All-Star break built in there and having a few days off after the All-Star break, the move just kind of made sense right for where we are as a team, and obviously to make sure we get it better and don’t try and come back too soon and let it linger.”
Giolito’s demotion comes on the heels of a laborious start last night in which he was knocked out after only 3 2/3 innings and a whopping 90 pitches. Rizzo, though, said performance had nothing to do with the decision.
The impetus for the move was the fact the Nationals won’t need a fifth starter again until July 23, giving Giolito a chance to return to the minors and make a couple more starts on regular rest before a possible return to the majors. Joe Ross, currently on the DL with shoulder inflammation, also could be ready to return by then.
“He was going down if he threw a nine-inning no-hitter,” Rizzo said of Giolito. “We were going to option him out, because it’s the right roster move to make. We’re not going to need that slot in the rotation until well after 10 days are up to recall him.”
Update: We are through three innings of tonight’s game, and two things immediately need to be pointed out: 1) The Nats lead 3-0, and 2) Stephen Strasburg has not allowed a hit so far. Robinson clobbered a two-run homer off Noah Syndergaard to get things started. Murphy later added an RBI double, scoring Jayson Werth from first. Strasburg, meanwhile, has let only one man reach base: Curtis Granderson, who drew a four-pitch walk in the bottom of the first. Otherwise, the Mets haven’t come close to recording a hit. If you go back to his last start against the Brewers, Strasburg has now thrown 9 1/3 hitless innings since coming off the DL, albeit with five walks and 142 pitches required.
Update II: Five innings down now, and the Mets have finally broken through against Strasburg. Asdrubal Cabrera hammered a 3-2 slider over the right field wall, breaking Strasburg’s streak of hitless innings at 10 2/3. The bigger concern for the Mets, though, is Syndergaard, who walked off the field with a trainer after throwing a couple of fastballs that were down about 5 mph from normal. This guy, remember, is trying to pitch with a bone spur in his elbow. Not good for New York, which also saw Yoenis Cespedes leave tonight’s game with a strained quadriceps muscle. Nats lead 3-1 after five.
Update III: It’s still 3-1 Nats after seven. Strasburg had to gut his way through his final inning of work, finally getting out of the seventh with his pitch count at 108. The Nats, meanwhile, don’t have a hit since Murphy’s RBI double in the third. It’s up to the bullpen now.
Update IV: It got a little harrowing, but the Nationals have won this game, 3-1. Blake Treinen recorded a huge double play to escape a jam in the eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 18th save in 20 tries. The Nats get a much-needed win and increase their lead back to four games in the division.