For the first time in weeks, the shortstop for the Washington Nationals stood at a locker near the middle of the clubhouse. The fill-ins, Carter Kieboom and Wilmer Difo, had been in the rear left corner. But the lineup changed Friday afternoon.
“It feels good [to be back],” Trea Turner said. “With injuries, every day feels the same. It’s so repetitive doing the same things over and over, trying to just get back on the playing field. Now I get a chance to play again.”
Turner’s right wrist was wrapped with what appeared to be medical tape, which snaked around his once-broken right index finger. Turner landed on the injured list April 3 after he was hit on the hand while attempting to bunt against the Philadelphia Phillies the night before. Still, he said he felt great physically.
His return to the Nationals (18-25) for the series opener against the Chicago Cubs (25-16) signaled that Washington was almost healthy after a prolific injury-bug bite in the last month. The big-picture effect of the moment was not lost on Manager Dave Martinez.
“It was real nice to write [Turner’s] name in the lineup," Martinez said. "He’s been itching to get back as we all know. He’s excited to be back. No expectations. I told him to go out there and play the game and do what you do best.”
The 25-year-old Turner returned to the team amid a flurry of moves, which included promoting right-hander Kyle McGowin from Class AAA Fresno, demoting Difo there and placing right-hander Aníbal Sánchez on the 10-day IL with a left hamstring strain.
Turner, in his fifth season with the Nationals, did not couch his own expectations for the return. He did not want to give himself any excuse for not performing right away, because he wanted to come back basically as soon as he left. He expected to steal bases, hit home runs and provide a steady, solid presence at the shortstop position.
In two games at Class A-Advanced Potomac for a rehab stint, Turner was 1 for 8 with four strikeouts and a walk. He made one throwing error and participated in three double plays, two of which he turned at second base. What the Nationals saw there influenced the decision to activate Turner.
“We watched him play, and it looks like he was ready,” Martinez said. "His at-bats look like he was on time, which is kind of nice. Defense was really good. He was ready, so he is in there.”
Turner did admit, though, the one thing he couldn’t get from rehab was a proper readjustment to major league game speed.
“It’s just more confidence than anything,” Turner said about what he would focus on Friday. “My finger’s felt good doing baseball activity. Just a matter of testing it. If I get in the game and check-swing and do those things, being able to turn a double play. I felt like I was tested in a lot of different ways down [in Potomac], so it was good to get that confidence, and now I don’t second-guess it.”
Chicago Cubs (25-16)
Kyle Schwarber, LF
Kris Bryant, 3B
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Javier Baez, SS
Willson Contreras, C
Daniel Descalso, 2B
Jason Heyward, RF
Albert Almora Jr., CF
Cole Hamels, LHP
Washington Nationals (18-25)
Trea Turner, SS
Victor Robles, RF
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 1B
Juan Soto, LF
Kurt Suzuki, C
Brian Dozier, 2B
Michael A. Taylor, CF
Max Scherzer, RHP
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