Trea Turner has a non-displaced fracture in his right wrist and has no timetable for a return.
“It sucks. I’m trying to have a good at-bat right there,” Turner said after getting hit by a pitch from Pedro Strop in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday. “You wish it hit you in the back or arm or something — not the hand or wrist, which is never fun.”
The injury is on the outer part of the bone near the knob of the joint. The Nationals delivered that news about a half-hour after Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Cubs, adding injury to the late-inning insult of a gut-wrenching loss. When the Cubs reliever hit Turner, the young Nationals shortstop initially looked okay. He stayed in the game until before the ninth inning, as he found his wrist hurt when he lobbed the ball, but not when he fired it.
“After a little while it started stiffening up on me so I figured I’d get out of there,” Turner said. “In a close game, didn’t want to make a double-cut play or whatever it might be.”
Turner immediately went for X-rays, which revealed the fracture, one that didn’t seem to hinder him as he packed his things for the Nationals’ flight to St. Louis. Turner said he thought of Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who suffered a fracture of his left wrist when he was hit by a pitch in May. Freeman’s timetable could be instructive to Turner: He is in the midst of what the Braves expect will be two months of disabled list time because of that injury.
“You see guys every once in awhile try to stay in there and have a tough at-bat — breaking balls, whatever it is,” Turner said. “They stay in there too long — Giancarlo Stanton when he got hit in the face. It sucks because guys are throwing so hard now, you have very little time to get out of the way. When you get hit in little bones, little parts of the body, it’s hard to come away unscathed.”
Turner was seemingly settling into his game offensively. He walked as many times in the past seven games as he did in the first two months of the season and was leading the league in stolen bases with 35, a career high. Now, it is reasonable to assume he will be out until late August at the earliest — September at the latest — leaving the Nationals to fill a key position on the field and in the batting order. They began this season with two leadoff hitters, Turner and Adam Eaton. For the next two months, they will have to find a new one.
In Turner’s absence, Stephen Drew can play shortstop, and Wilmer Difo is already on the roster. Difo has struggled offensively, but he did get time at shortstop when Turner and Drew went down with hamstring injuries earlier this season.
With Turner bound for the disabled list, the Nationals will need to make a roster move. A few minutes after news of his injury became official, the starting shortstop for Class AAA Syracuse — 26-year-old Adrian Sanchez — was subbed out for no visible reason in the middle of the Chiefs’ game. Sanchez is hitting .259, and is considered a solid defender. The Nationals signed him out of Venezuela in 2007.
The substitution could have nothing to do with the injury, of course — though in situations like these, coincidence is rare. Brandon Snyder, who can play every position on the field but is not an above average shortstop, was named an International League all-star for the Chiefs. But Snyder hurt his arm Wednesday, and Sanchez was to be his replacement after a strong first half. Beyond those two, the Nationals have few near-ready infielders that could help fill the shortstop void, though perhaps the Nationals will go another direction and decide Drew and Difo provide enough insurance at the position.
Regardless, the loss of Turner steals a third top-of-the-order bat from the Nationals’ lineup. Eaton seems unlikely to return this season. Jayson Werth should be back soon after the all-star break. For now, the potent middle of the order and weak division seem able to sustain them through an injury like this. But without Turner, a spark will be gone.