WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - New Washington National manager Dave Martinez has an abundance of speed at the top of his lineup and intends to use it.
That’s why he’s preaching aggressive baserunning this spring.
“I told them, ‘I’ll never criticize you for going first to third in spring training, ever, because I want to see how many times you can make it,’” Martinez said.
Martinez’s lineup includes multiple players capable of taking that extra base, starting with his first two batters in his projected lineup, Adam Eaton and Trea Turner.
“My biggest motto for them as baserunners is, ‘How can we get to third base with less than two outs?’” Martinez said.
Turner stole 46 bases last season, third most in the major leagues despite missing two months because of a fractured wrist.
A healthy Turner should challenge for the stolen base title this season.
“Obviously, I think the most meaningful thing is winning, and winning the World Series, but the way you help your team, if that is stealing bases and you can be the best at it, I think that’s pretty cool,” said Turner, who went 0 for 3 in Tuesday’s 2-2 tie with Miami, preventing him from notching his first spring steal.
Martinez encourages Turner to run despite the likelihood that a successful steal of second would prompt pitchers to pitch more carefully - or avoid altogether - the run producers who follow him in the order. Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon all have at least one 100-RBI season in their major league careers.
“Do I want Bryce to swing? Of course,” Martinez said. “Will he get frustrated? No. We’ve had that conversation too, that (Harper would) rather them be on second base to drive in a run - base hit drives in a run.”
Buoyed by Turner’s thefts, Washington ranked fifth in the majors last season with 108 steals.
Eaton, recovering from ACL surgery, has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game. He has faced live pitching in batting practice and taken part in defensive drills but isn’t running at full strength.
Neither Martinez nor Eaton would divulge the target for Eaton’s first spring game appearance, but he is expected to be ready for opening day.
“If I get in a game today, is that really going to help us get to opening day? Probably not,” Eaton said. “We’re going to take it and be methodical with this and do it right the first time, and make sure I’m not overcooked, so to speak, until I go out there.”
Eaton and Turner aren’t the only ones getting the green light.
Matt Reynolds has yet to steal a base during his 115-game major league career, but he actually swiped third base in Monday’s loss to the Braves. And Martinez is encouraging his big bats to be more aggressive on the basepaths.
“Even Harp and Rendon, those guys don’t have to steal all the time, but be aware that we might ask them to run on occasion,” Martinez said.
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