The Nationals officially placed Trea Turner on the 10-day injured list today, and though they are offering no firm timetable for his return the club is prepared to be without its starting shortstop for a significant stretch that figures to last at least a month.
“We saw the X-ray, we put him on the injured list and we’ll see how he progresses,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “And when the bone heals, we’ll have him start baseball activities and then get him back as soon as we can.”
Because the fracture Turner sustained to his right index finger was non-displaced, he won’t require surgery. But the fact it’s on his throwing hand could add to his recovery time. For comparison’s sake, Matt Adams suffered a similar injury last summer and returned in three weeks, but the break was on his non-throwing hand.
Whatever the time frame for Turner’s return ends up being, the Nationals are going to have to find a way to account for his absence. They intend to start Wilmer Difo at shortstop, much as they did two years ago when Turner broke his wrist, with just-recalled Adrián Sanchez serving as the backup infielder.
Sanchez was selected over top prospect Carter Kieboom, according to Rizzo, because the organization does not believe the latter is defensively ready to play shortstop in the majors. Though Kieboom impressed at the plate this spring, the 21-year-old remained a work-in-progress at both shortstop and second base.
“I just think we want to refine Carter defensively a little bit,” Rizzo said. “Offensively, he had a great spring and a great Arizona Fall League. He’s very, very close to becoming major league-ready. We think he just needs a few more reps at the position. We’re going to see him sooner rather than later. We’re not afraid of timelines. We’re not afraid of putting young players in the big leagues. When we feel he’s ready, we’ll bring him.”
Difo provides a talented glove, but the Nationals won’t get Turner’s offensive skill set from his replacement. Manager Davey Martinez elected to bump second baseman Brian Dozier up to Turner’s No. 2 spot in the lineup, given the veteran’s previous experience batting atop the order in Minnesota and the possibility he’ll see more fastballs in that position and get himself going after a 1-for-13 start to the season.
Difo is batting seventh today and will be asked to contribute in a manner befitting his skills.
“Defensively, I don’t think we’re going to miss much,” Martinez said. “He’s pretty good. Real good at shortstop. For me, it’s letting Difo just relax and go play. I want Difo just to be Difo. Not try to do too much. Just go out there and play the game. Play good defense. Get on base and do the little things.”
A bleary-eyed Sanchez arrived at Nationals Park around 10:30 a.m. after a crazy few days of travel. He departed Florida at the end of minor league spring training on Saturday, arriving in Fresno on Sunday. At 6 p.m. Pacific Tuesday night, he was informed he was being promoted to replace Turner and immediately packed and headed to the airport. He took a red-eye flight from Fresno to Chicago, connected to a 7 a.m. flight from Chicago to Washington and came straight to the park.
Asked if he knows what day it is, Sanchez replied: “Tuesday?”
Other injury updates:
* Adams is “still a little sore” after taking a tumble over the first-base railing and into the lowered MGM suite but informed Martinez he might be available to pinch-hit today.
* Howie Kendrick said he’s ready to go after playing in “five or six” minor league spring training games and running the bases with no issues. Kendrick, who strained his left hamstring March 5, is eligible to be activated off the IL on Thursday. Barring any unexpected changes, he’ll join the active roster for Thursday’s series opener in New York. “I’m excited to be back (and) have an opportunity to help the guys out and play some baseball,” the veteran utility man said.
* Michael A. Taylor’s rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg is scheduled to begin Thursday.