Trea Turner hasn’t played with the Nationals since June 29, when he fractured his wrist after being hit by a pitch. (Nick Wass/Associated Press)

The collective healing of the Washington Nationals continued Tuesday when the team activated shortstop Trea Turner from the 60-day disabled list — and Manager Dusty Baker immediately wrote him in to the top spot in his lineup. If the Nationals and Miami Marlins play — and a day of drenching rain might wash the game out — Turner will be leading off and playing shortstop for the first time since June 29.

That day, Turner took a pitch off the wrist from Cubs’ reliever Pedro Strop in his last at-bat of a four-game series in which he went 6 for 14 and stole seven bases. The Nationals have lacked their regular leadoff man ever since, piecing lineups together with a combination of Michael A. Taylor, Brian Goodwin (who has also since gone on the DL), Wilmer Difo and others.

That group compiled a .297 on-base percentage and a .757 on-base plus slugging (OPS) in the two months without Turner. At the time of his injury, Turner — who looked to be just finding his rhythm after a slow start — had an on-base percentage of .324 and an OPS of .746. He had also stolen 35 bases, a mark that is still third in baseball.

“[Turner] gives you speed, and he gives you the threat of speed. The threat of speed will get him better pitches, and once he gets on base, the threat of speed will get the guys behind him better pitches,” Baker said. “Any time a pitcher has to worry about Trea and the batter, they’re splitting their concentration. Any time you can split someone’s concentration versus just focusing on the hitter, you’ll be more apt to hang something. He can distract you. He’s a force.”

Turner was not a force in his rehab assignment with Class AAA Syracuse and Class A Potomac. Asked why he didn’t steal more bases there, Turner said “I didn’t get on base much.” He went 2 for 21 with seven strikeouts in seven rehab games. Often, wrist injuries can provide unexpected trouble to hitters hoping for speedy recovery. Wrist strength is obviously crucial to a hitter, and Turner had not been able to do much strengthening with that broken wrist until it healed completely — let alone hit with it. How quickly Turner regains full strength will likely determine how quickly he is able to reestablish his timing, and with it, his production.

“I’m kind of surprised it’s felt as good as it has,” Turner said. ” … I’ve been able to do a lot of exercises since I’ve started hitting. I don’t even think about it. I’m excited to get back out there and play some games.”

The broken wrist cost Turner 51 games, just less than a third of the season, and left the Nationals without the 24-year-old who was a finalist in rookie of the year voting last season. His return should allow Baker to restore a more familiar lineup, though in the wet conditions Tuesday, neither Jayson Werth nor Michael A. Taylor were scheduled to play. The Nationals outfield will be an unorthodox combination of Adam Lind, Alejandro De Aza and Wilmer Difo, from right to left.

Turner’s return bumps Difo from everyday shortstop duties, a job at which he excelled enough to encourage the Nationals about his potential as an everyday infield option in the future. Difo hit .324 with an .801 OPS in Turner’s absence, and will now have to find innings elsewhere, likely spelling infielders like Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon.

With Difo back in the backup infielder’s role, Adrian Sanchez was optioned to Class AAA Syracuse to clear a roster spot for Turner. Sanchez will likely return 10 days from now, when rosters expand. The Nationals placed Ryan Raburn on the 60-day disabled list with his strained right trapezius muscle, one from which he was recovering nicely as of earlier this week, but that will now cost him most of the rest of the season since his disabled list stint began July 26.

But the Nationals have their shortstop back, the next in a long line of injured players to work their way back into the lineup. He, Jayson Werth, and Taylor have all returned from missing substantial time. Ryan Madson is set to rejoin the team in Milwaukee, where he will be evaluated and given a plan for his return, which the Nationals wholeheartedly expect will be before October. Bryce Harper is moving around well, if not showing signs of imminent baseball activity. He is the only piece of their Opening Day lineup that remains out.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS (79-51)

Trea Turner SS

Alejandro De Aza CF

Daniel Murphy 2B

Ryan Zimmerman 1B

Adam Lind LF

Anthony Rendon 3B

Matt Wieters C

Wilmer Difo SS

Edwin Jackson P

MIAMI MARLINS (66-64)

Dee Gordon 2B

Giancarlo Stanton RF

Christian Yelich CF

Marcell Ozuna LF

J.T. Realmuto C

Derek Dietrich 3B

Tomas Telis 1B

Miguel Rojas SS

Vance Worley P

 

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