- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2017

Trea Turner can’t sprint.

This, for a 23-year-old leadoff hitter who has constructed his game on speed, is not good. So, the Washington Nationals placed Turner on the 10-day disabled list Monday because of a hamstring strain. Outfielder Michael A. Taylor was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse to take his place on the roster. Stephen Drew will replace Turner as the starting shortstop, at least for Monday. Adam Eaton will slide into Turner’s leadoff spot.

Turner was injured on Saturday when running the bases during one of the Nationals’ most disastrous innings in team history. He was hurt in the top of a frigid first against the Philadelphia Phillies. Jeremy Guthrie allowed 10 earned runs in ⅔ of an inning on his 38th birthday in the bottom of it. The inning was part of a painful losing series in Philadelphia that leveled the Nationals’ record at 3-3 coming into Monday.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker will pivot between Drew and Wilmer Difo during Turner’s time on the disabled list, which is retroactive to April 9. Turner will miss seven games because Washington has two days off while he is recuperating. Drew will play Monday and Wednesday. Difo will be in the lineup Tuesday, playing the middle game of a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals.

This is the first time Washington will utilize an offseason change by Major League Baseball. The league cut the disabled list from 15 days to 10. Reducing the mandatory length of stay allows managers to be removed from limbo. Often, players are injured to the point that they need five days to recover, but not two weeks. Last season, Washington was caught in-between during one point of the year with Bryce Harper.

Harper missed five consecutive games in early August, but was never placed on the disabled list. Harper taking a roster spot although he was not able to play shortened Baker’s bench, leaving him with fewer options for almost a week. Situations like that made Baker pleased by the rule change.

“Especially with the minor, minor things that are hindering you from playing, possibly injuring it more but not bad enough for you to be two weeks, 15 days on the DL,” Baker said. “Therefore, you end up playing short for probably a week to 10 days when that person might have been coming back.”

Turner took batting practice in the indoor cage Monday. He said his recovery plan involves “basically get poked on until I feel better.” By that, he meant massage and physical therapy.

Hamstring injuries make Baker nervous. When he was the manager in Cincinnati, Chris Heisey, who is also now with the Nationals, pulled his hamstring. He convinced Baker he was ready to return to the lineup, and when he did, he pulled the hamstring again. The challenge for Turner, as it is with all injured players, is being ready to react.

“It’s hard to simulate game speed,” Baker said. “I don’t care how much you work out, what you do. You can run backwards, forward, karaoke. You can do anything. But, it’s hard to simulate game speed and quickness.”

The break will also give Turner a chance to reassess after a rough first week at the plate. He’s hitting just .158 and has struck out seven times in 19 at-bats. He is yet to walk. Early on, he is being thrown more sliders than last season, according to Fangraphs. Two other numbers from Fangraphs about Turner’s plate appearances this season jump out: One is that when he swings, he is after strikes 75.7 percent of the time. That’s a 10-point jump from last season. Oddly, despite the quality plate discipline, his contact percentage is down almost 10 points when swinging at strikes and overall.

Countering Turner’s scuffling first week is Eaton’s solid start which includes a league-leading seven walks. His .250 batting average coming into Monday has paired with the walks to deliver a .444 on-base percentage. Eaton’s walk rate is unsustainable. Extrapolated, it would lead to a season with 215 walks. Eaton also has six strikeouts, which puts him on pace for 205. Neither number will be reality in September. However, the strikeout have caught Baker’s attention. Eaton averaged 123 strikeouts the last two seasons.

“He’s better than what he’s playing,” Baker said. “He’ll be better once he learns the league more. He’s been — I shouldn’t be surprised. Spring training, he had [60] at-bats and no walks. He has five or six walks already. I’d like to see him cut his swing down with two strikes, cut his strikeouts down. It’s hard to use your speed when you’re walking back to the dugout.”

• Todd Dybas can be reached at tdybas@washingtontimes.com.

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