Turner ‘al­ready on the map’ in field, at plate

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

Four F/A-18E Su­per Hor­nets flown by the U.S. Navy VA-143 Pukin’ Dogs roared by at the end of the na­tional an­them on Mon­day. The fly­over has be­come a sonic tra­di­tion at home open­ers, in­clud­ing those in Na­tion­als Park, and some­times star­tles those not ex­pect­ing it.

Trea Turner was tipped off about what was com­ing dur­ing pregame on Open­ing Day. His un­cle works in air op­er­a­tions at Naval Air Sta­tion Oceana in Vir­ginia Beach. He helped co­or­di­nate the fly­over.

The rest of Turner’s first Open­ing Day was mixed with new and old. He made his home de­but as the per­ma­nent start­ing short­stop. Af­ter won­der in the off­sea­son about who would lead­off, Turner was atop the lineup and Adam Eaton hit sec­ond.

Lead­off hit­ter and short­stop are now his dual roles, ones that put him on the cusp of full-time star­dom a sea­son af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond in Rookie of the Year vot­ing de­spite only 307 at-bats.

“He’s al­ready on the map,” man­ager Dusty Baker said.

Turner wanted both spots, in the bat­ting or­der and in the field, but he can do with­out the recog­ni­tion as­pect. He of­ten hangs out with Bryce Harper, re­ceiv­ing a full dose of what that kind of life is like. It also helps Turner be less rec­og­nized by the gen­eral pub­lic. Harper is a walk­ing klieg light. That makes his shadow larger and one Turner is happy to step into when out and about.

“He’s pretty well grounded,” Baker said. “He has a pretty good ex­am­ple in Bryce. [Bryce] signs ev­ery day for the kids, has a des­ig­nated pe­riod of time.

Him and Bryce are hang­ing out to­gether. The main thing is you have to be po­lite and cor­dial but you also have to be a lit­tle selfish with your time and en­ergy be­cause he’s go­ing to be pulled on in all di­rec­tions, which is in­dica­tive that he is get­ting more and more no­to­ri­ety and more fame.

“I think he and Bryce were the most sought af­ter guys on the team for au­to­graphs. Like, you sign so many au­to­graphs to start the sea­son, I think he and Bryce had the most. That’s a pretty high — peo­ple are al­ways look­ing for a new star. He is def­i­nitely a new star. My sug­ges­tion is just play.”

That part be­gan Mon­day af­ter the fly­over. Turner hit a line-drive dou­ble off the left-field wall in his first at-bat. He was part of a dou­ble steal two bat­ters later. What he can do at the plate and on the bases have be­come the sure parts of his game early in his ca­reer. Fifty stolen bases this sea­son is pos­si­ble. They could go along with a .300 bat­ting av­er­age and 20 home runs. Baker has ar­gued that Turner is among the best lead­off hit­ters in base­ball, if not at the top. There is merit to that ar­gu­ment now that Ana­heim ap­pears to have be­come more wise and moved Mike Trout from lead­off.

Turner’s first at-bat Mon­day was pop­u­lated by fast­balls. Edin­son Volquez threw him six fast­balls — four fourseam­ers and two sinkers. Volquez flipped his at­tack in Turner’s sec­ond at-bat. Two knuckle-curve­balls and two change­ups made up four of the five pitches. Turner flew out to right field in that at-bat, loft­ing a knuckle-curve for an easy out.

As he moves through the league for an en­tire sea­son, Turner will re­ceive the full ex­pe­ri­ence of the push-and-pull with op­pos­ing pitch­ers, par­tic­u­larly in the di­vi­sion. No pitcher in the Na­tional League East has faced Turner more than six times.

At short­stop, Turner had a solid spring and busy opener. He thought the few er­rors he made in Florida were easy fixes.

“Phys­i­cal er­rors are al­ways go­ing to hap­pen,” Turner said. “The men­tal ones are the ones you want to stay away from. I think ev­ery er­ror is a com­bi­na­tion of both. But, like I said, three or four of them, I feel like the slight­est change and I com­plete all the plays and we’re not even talk­ing about mak­ing er­rors. That’s the fine line be­tween make a mis­take, make an er­ror or be­ing per­fect. What every­one strives for is to be as per­fect as you can.”

On Mon­day, Turner made eight putouts from short­stop. One came on a dive to his right in the hole. His long throw was on point. Even if it was late, Turner would have taken so­lace in the play. His de­fen­sive fo­cus is to “com­plete the play.” He knows a way­ward throw or botched han­dling of the ball gives him no chances to do so. That means he is lean­ing on ba­sics first as he grows into a ma­jor-league short­stop.

“He demon­strated plenty of arm,” Baker said. “And, he demon­strated an ac­cu­rate arm. Most young short­stops’ er­rors come on throw­ing er­rors. But, he’s go­ing to keep work­ing on it. He’s go­ing to get bet­ter and bet­ter. The bet­ter he gets, the more com­fort­able he’ll feel.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als’ Trea Turner made eight putouts on Mon­day in his first Open­ing Day start at short­stop. He thought his spring train­ing er­rors were easy fixes.

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