Ben Revere never sits still before games. He’s always up walking around the clubhouse, pacing back and forth. When he’s in the Nationals’ lineup he often has a bat in his hand. He hones his swing in front of his locker or just sits there with the bat. That was a daily occurrence earlier in the season, when Revere was the Nationals’ everyday center fielder and leadoff man. It’s become an infrequent sighting as of late because Revere is now a bench player.
Revere hasn’t spoken to Manager Dusty Baker about his demotion. He said he doesn’t need to. He understands the situation, applying logic most ultra-competitive beings in his ranks would dismiss. He is having the worst season of his career while his replacement in center field, rookie Trea Turner, has emerged as one of the most exciting players in baseball. Revere is batting .216 with a .565 on-base-plus slugging percentage. Turner is batting .341 with a .900 OPS. The point is to win games and Turner is doing more to win.
“He’s killing it,” Revere said. “He’s changing the game.”
Revere, 28, was acquired to replace Denard Span, traded from the Blue Jays in the offseason in exchange for disgruntled reliever Drew Storen. He was a career .295 hitter with premier speed set to make a modest salary — by major league standards — of $6.25 million. The plan shattered on Opening Day when Revere suffered an oblique injury in his first at-bat. He returned more than a month later a different player. Trying to cope with the injury, Revere formed bad habits and couldn’t find a rhythm with his herky-jerky swing.
Turner debuted as a center fielder for Class AAA Syracuse in late June. A month later, he debuted there for the Nationals. By Aug. 1, it was apparent that Turner, who transitioned to the outfield as seamlessly as the Nationals could have hoped, had supplanted Revere as the club’s starting center fielder when the team was whole and he wasn’t needed to play second base (basically, when Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy were in the lineup).
Since Turner’s debut in center field, Revere has started 18 games and come in off the bench in six. He’s made four starts in left field and batted second or at the bottom of the order when Turner has been in the lineup. When he has played center field, he’s made a couple dazzling catches, serving as a reminder of his elite athleticism. He’s batted first only once during the stretch, on July 29 in San Francisco, the last time Turner didn’t start a game.
This is Revere’s first experience as a bench player since he first broke into the majors with the Twins. It calls for different preparation and a modified mindset. It’s a disappointment, but Revere isn’t bitter.
“It’s going good. We’re winning games. That’s the main thing,” Revere said. “I don’t want to be the teammate pouting and everything. I want to do everything I can to be a good teammate, help him out in the outfield and feeling good at the plate. The main thing now for me to do is just anything I can to help this team win a championship. Get to the playoffs, win a championship. There will be some times when they may need me. If that case comes, I got to be ready.”