Turner was struck by a pitch in his left forearm during Sunday’s series finale against the Mets at Citi Field and departed the contest early, adding yet another name to the long list of injury concerns.
But after X-rays returned negative, Turner was diagnosed with a contusion and had Monday’s scheduled off-day to rest before getting ready to open a two-game series against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla. So Martinez was happy to finally hear some good injury news when he spoke to Turner this morning.
“Yeah, I talked to him this morning,” Martinez said during his pregame Zoom session with reporters. “He said, ‘You know, still a little tender,’ but he said he feels fine. He was getting treatment, he’s going to go out and take batting practice. But he said he’s good to go, so he’ll be in the lineup tonight.”
The Nationals could hardly afford to have Turner miss any time at this point, with their injured list already filled with important pieces to their roster. Will Harris (right hand inflammation), Jon Lester (undisclosed), Luis Avilán (Tommy John surgery), Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) and Juan Soto (left shoulder strain) still find themselves unavailable to Martinez thanks to their respective ailments.
With Soto out and with an offense that is struggling to score runs, Turner playing through a forearm contusion was probably the best news of the day for Martinez.
That allows the skipper to put Turner back at the top of the lineup with his .274 batting average, .800 OPS and speed on the basepaths.
“Yeah, one, I’m definitely excited to see both of them in the lineup,” Martinez said. “You know, the way our lineup matches up going right, left, right, switch-hitter, left, I kinda like that as well. And I wanted Zim to play.”
This will only be Zimmerman’s second start in about two weeks, with Bell getting most of the first base reps since he came off the injured list. The only other start for the longtime National came on April 18 against the Diamondbacks.
And Zimmerman doesn’t just bring his .294 average and .500 slugging percentage to the No. 3 spot. He also brings a better glove at first base, making it an easier decision to put him in the field and give Bell some time off his feet.
Ideally, this little reset - an off-day and being the DH - for Bell continues to help put him on the right path to break out of his slump at the plate before he returns to the field on Wednesday.
“We got a left-handed pitcher tomorrow in (Steven) Matz, so hopefully Zim makes it through today and he’ll play tomorrow,” Martinez explained. “I might switch it around where Zim DHs tomorrow and Bell plays first base. But I wanted Zim to get out there and play some first base today and get him going.”
Another interesting point in Martinez’s lineup construction is Yadiel Hernandez hitting second for the third straight game. Martinez made that move over the weekend, and Hernandez promptly rewarded him with a 2-for-4, two-RBI performance on Saturday and a 2-for-2 outing with two walks on Sunday.
“Like I said, here’s a guy that, one, he’s swinging the bat well,” Martinez said. “And he’s taking his walks so far. He’s swinging a hot bat, so I don’t want to move him. Two is, if you look at his career and how he hit, this guy hits the baseball. Whether it’s right-handed, left-handed, he hits the ball, he hits the ball well, he hits the ball hard. And I kinda like that.”
Martinez is hoping that with Turner and Hernandez ahead of Zimmerman and Bell, the big bats will get more opportunities to drive in runs. And drive in runs early.
“I’m trying to get him on base, I moved Trea back to the leadoff spot today with Zim hitting third and Bell hitting fourth,” Martinez continued. “I’m trying to get some guys on base for our guys in the middle of that lineup, see if we could score some runs and score early. As I always talk about, we want to try to score first and put the pressure on the other team, and I think Yadi gives us an opportunity to do that.”
And as someone who makes a lot of contact, can Hernandez drive in some runs with a speedy Turner on base ahead of him?
“Absolutely,” Martinez said. “And plus, you know, Yadi can put the ball in the seats just as good as anybody. So like I said, he’s hit the ball really well so far, so I want to keep him there for now.”