Heading into last night’s game against the Phillies, most Nationals fans were focused in on Bryce Harper’s return to Washington and what type of reception he’d receive. That took a backseat in the Nats 8-2 loss as Trea Turner could be out for an extended period of time after breaking his right index finger during an at bat early in the game.
Turner had squared around to bunt against Phillies starter Zach Eflin and was expecting a slider, but it was instead a fastball which ended up hitting his right index finger that was wrapped around the bat (something even little leaguers are constantly told to avoid — apparently for good reason). It quickly became apparent the speedy shortstop was in a lot of pain as he told trainers he couldn’t move his finger and was screaming in pain and frustration on his way off the field.
Wilmer Difo came in to finish Turner’s at bat and is expected to receive the majority of playing time at shortstop while he’s gone, much like in 2017 when Turner was out with a broken wrist. Difo has proven to be an excellent defensive player, but has largely remained a bench player due to big questions about his offensive output. He had 456 plate appearances in 148 games last season and had a .230/.298/.350 slashline. The numbers aren’t horrible, but aren’t near what Turner has produced — especially when you consider the threat Turner is on the basepaths.
While Difo will be the starting shortstop, this is the first time the new location for the AAA affiliate could play a role in calling someone up. Instead of making their way down from Syracuse, they’ll have to make their way across the country from Fresno, California. That means Adrian Sanchez, the most likely person to be called up, might not be able to make it to DC in time for the 1:05 first pitch today.
It also draws attention to the depth issues the organization has, especially as the team was already simply trying to make their way back to full health (something that’s not great during the beginning of the season). Howie Kendrick’s expected to return shortly after being in DC yesterday to have his strained left hamstring evaluated and Michael A. Taylor will be making a rehab start with the AA Harrisonburg Senators on Friday after suffering injuries to his left knee and hip.
There is still no timeline for when Turner might return to action and his teammates seem to realize this could have a big impact on an organization that was already off to a slow start. “Any time you lose your starting shortstop for an extended period of time, especially a player as talented as Trea, it’s just tough to swallow,” Ryan Zimmerman told reporters.
“But the season doesn’t stop for anybody, so we’ve just got to keep going,” the first baseman added. “Difo’s capable of playing great shortstop. He did it when Trea broke his wrist. We’ve got some guys capable to fill in, but you can’t really replace a guy like Trea.”
As Zimmerman and the rest of the Nationals are trying to “keep going,” the question is who will help provide the spark Turner had given the team. He’d already created some offensive excitement by stealing four bases in four attempts this year and launched the team to its only win with a walkoff homerun during the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Mets. If the team hopes to turn things around, someone better step up quickly.