He did his best not to make a big deal about it during the season, but Trea Turner wasn’t ever 100 percent healthy after breaking his right index finger in early April.
Yes, he returned to the Nationals lineup in late May and played nearly every day the rest of the way. And he still batted .298 with 61 extra-base hits and an .850 OPS while playing an effective shortstop throughout the regular season and postseason.
If you watched him closely, though, you noticed Turner had to take precautions to protect his still healing finger. Most notably, he used only the other nine fingers when gripping his bat.
He made it work, but once the season was over, Turner wanted to get the finger reexamined and ultimately found out he needed surgery to repair a damaged tendon and remove a bone spur. The result of all that? He’s convinced he’s actually 100 percent healthy now as he prepares for the 2020 season.
“I’ve started hitting. I can hit with 10 fingers, so it’s good,” he said today at Winterfest. “We’ll see how I play. I might go back to nine if I don’t like it, cause I felt like last year went pretty good. I’m definitely in a much better spot this year.”
Turner was joking (mostly) about going back to the nine-finger grip, but the crack does underscore how remarkable his 2019 performance was in spite of his ailment.
Turner and the Nationals hoped eight weeks of rest after he broke the finger trying to bunt a high-and-tight fastball during the season’s first homestand would solve the problem. And it did, in that he was able to return to the active roster and play every day.
But he realized the finger still wasn’t completely right, because he couldn’t bend it all the way down. It was more of a problem away from the ballpark - he couldn’t open a bottle of soda, for example - but it did affect his baseball activities to some extent.
“I never wanted to make an excuse,” he said. “I felt I could compete with how it was. It was more off the field. I couldn’t open a bottle of Coke, which was kind of annoying. But now it’s significantly better. The baseball in general, I think, is going to be the same. But being able to fist-bump people again and be able to do stupid stuff like that is going to be nice.”
Once the season ended, Turner sought the diagnoses of two doctors. He wound up going to see Dr. Michelle Carson, a specialist in New York, who through the use of a 3-D print discovered a bone spur and damaged tendon on the injured finger. Surgery took place Nov. 16.
“Those two minor adjustments helped me improve my range of motion significantly,” he said. “Now I can do normal things. I can grip the bat. I can grip weights. I see a lot in my workouts and weight lifting that there’s definite improvement there.”