Nationals shortstop Trea Turner and veteran infielder Brendan Ryan were teammates at Triple-A Syracuse in 2016. Ryan, 36, played pro ball for 15 seasons through last year.
Turner, 25, noticed that when Ryan played shortstop he would make a jump throw to first base on some ground balls. So, the younger player began working on such a maneuver.
“I don’t think very many guys would teach it,” Turner told The Washington Times. “If you don’t do it right some people are not going to be happy about it.”
Most of the time, Turner does the jump throw just right.
“That little jump throw is kind of unusual,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said.
In his first healthy, full season in the majors, Turner has made just 12 errors and has a .980 fielding percentage. Earlier this week, Martinez even went as far to suggest that Turner could be Gold Glove winner one day.
But for now, the speedy Turner has a unique combination of speed and power as a big league shortstop. He leads the National League with 43 steals, while being caught just nine times.
“He has been unbelievable. A very unique player,” Martinez said. “When he gets on base he is a threat.”
Turner became the all-time leader in steals for the Nationals with his 123th career stolen base last Sunday. He broke a tie with former Washington shortstop Ian Desmond, who now plays for the Colorado Rockies. He added another steal on Monday. The Nationals end the season this weekend with three games in Denver against the Rockies, starting Friday.
“I think anytime a record is within reach, I think it’s always cool to be mentioned along with it, or beat one or set your own,” Turner said. “It’s a lot of hard work. It shows it can pay off if you continue to try to get better and put the work in over a long time. So, I like it.”
Turner grew up in Florida and then played in college at North Carolina State. He was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2014, and then traded to the Nationals before the 2015 season.
Did he own any stolen base records before this season?
“High school, no. College, for my college, yes. And I guess here now,” Turner said. “But I don’t think I did anything in the minors. I would say college, I know I have at least school records. But I don’t know about NCAA records or anything like that.”
Turner has also been durable this season. He has played in every game, and starting all but four. The only Washington player to appear in all 162 games in a season was Ryan Zimmerman, who started all 162 in 2007.
“I mean, got this far, so might as well,” Turner said, when asked if he wanted to play in every game. “Obviously barring injury, but I’d rather just complete it to say I did it. I think that would be pretty cool.”
Despite his speed, Martinez and Turner feel he can become an even better baserunner.
“Those caught stealings, sometimes I’m safe coming off the bag, as you guys know,” Turner said. “It’s a hard thing to do, especially with replay now. But I just wonder how many bases I’ve left on the field in the last year or two years. Probably double digits. Probably 10-to-15 or so. Those are outs for my team.”
Martinez feels those stolen base totals could climb in the future.
“I really believe there are certain opportunities when he could steal more and he gets tentative,” Martinez said. “I believe he is a 60 or 70 base guy, I really do. He is getting better.”
Turner is hitting .270 with 27 doubles, five triples, 18 homers, 68 RBI and a .754 OPS.
“There have been games or weeks or stretches where I feel I could have done a lot better from whatever standpoint, not necessarily power but hitting in general,” Turner said. “That is why this game is so hard. I will continue to work.”