- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2017

Add needing a new leadoff hitter to the Washington Nationals’ growing list of problems.

Besides a disastrous bullpen, shortstop Trea Turner suffered a nondisplaced fracture in his right wrist Thursday and is out for the time being. Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has missed the last two months with a nondisplaced fracture in his left wrist in May.

“It sucks. … You wish it’d hit you in the arm or back or something,” said Turner, who suffered the fracture after being hit by a pitch in the seventh inning by the Cubs’ Pedro Strop. 

The Nationals will have a new leadoff man Friday and for the foreseeable future as they head to St. Louis to face the Cardinals for a three-game series, including being showcased on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.”

Turner missed 10 games with a hamstring injury in April, but the Nationals leadoff situation looked different then, too. Turner was reinstated from the DL on April 21, but outfielder Adam Eaton was the team’s primary leadoff hitter. Eaton, who batted first in 16 of the Nationals’ first 23 games, tore his ACL on April 29.

Jayson Werth, who has led-off 95 times in his career, would be another candidate to replace Turner at the top of the lineup, but he’s nursing a left foot contusion and has missed the last 24 games.

Stephen Drew and Wilmer Difo are both candidates to replace Turner at shortstop. Drew was Turner’s main backup, but Difo showed promise when Drew missed 41 games with a hamstring strain. Difo started as the Nationals leadoff hitter in two games this season, though he is batting only .194. Drew replaced Turner in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game. 

The leadoff spot has undergone a revolution in baseball recently with teams opting for power instead of speed. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has used Anthony Rizzo as Chicago’s leadoff hitter this season and the Houston Astros uses George Springer in the same role as well.

It’s unclear if Nationals manager Dusty Baker would be open to a similar approach.

Washington, though, is taking on another struggling NL Central team. The Cardinals (37-41) are three and a half games back in their division. They’ve dealt with disappointment for most of the year and their key free agent signing, Dexter Fowler, is on the 10-day DL with a foot injury.

Tanner Roark (6-5, 5.15 ERA) looks to get back on track for Friday’s start. Roark let up six earned runs in his last start against the Cincinnati Reds, but settled down after the first two innings and found his rhythm before being pulled after the sixth.

“I felt like I was making my pitches,” Roark said. “Sometimes stuff like that happens. You can’t get overwhelmed or mad about it. Just tip your cap and keep going out there. I was happy to stay out there as long as I did and finish the game.”

The Nationals are 9-11 in their last 20 games and split a four-game series with the Cubs.

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