Turner looks to make most of brief stay in bigs

Nationals' No. 2 prospect will return to Minors upon Zimmerman's return

Turner looks to make most of brief stay in bigs

CINCINNATI -- Trea Turner sat in the visitors' dugout here at Great American Ball Park for his first stint in the Majors this season, but he was wearing shorts with a Syracuse Chiefs logo on it. He could be forgiven, considering his stay in the big leagues this time around will be brief.

The Nationals recalled Turner from Triple-A Syracuse to fill the roster spot vacated by Ryan Zimmerman, who was placed on paternity leave after his wife, Heather, had their second child on Thursday. Turner batted second and started at second base for the Nationals in Friday's 7-2 loss to the Reds, going 3-for-3 with a double and a walk.

"I think good games are confidence boosters, no matter where you are," Turner said after the game. "That goes for everything, not just hitting, but defense and baserunning. But it was nice to get off to a quick start and not have to press."

Despite the strong debut, manager Dusty Baker said once Zimmerman returns, Turner -- the team's No. 2 prospect as rated by MLBPipeline.com -- will return to the Minors.

"He's still got some things to learn, and let's let him learn it," Baker said before the game. "Besides, right now there's no room. ... I told him, 'Hey, time is on your side.' I've been where he's been already. We're always in a hurry, but his future is very bright and it's ahead of him."

Though Turner started Friday, with second baseman Daniel Murphy shifting over to first base, Baker does not plan on starting Turner the whole weekend. Clint Robinson will start Saturday and Sunday at first base as Murphy will shift back to second.

Ladson on Turner's callup

"This is where everybody wants to be, and to get another opportunity to do it, it's fun," Turner said. "I'm going to try to take advantage of it and enjoy the time.

"My job is to help the team any way I can, whether it's off the bench or starting, second base, shortstop, wherever. It may be whether it's late in the game or starting, and I'm just going to try to continue the roll that we are on and enjoy it."

Turner has been having a stellar season in Triple-A, batting .310/.376/.472 while leading the International League in runs (38) and stolen bases (17).

"I think I've grown approach-wise," he said. "I'm starting to lay off pitches that I think I swung at last year and even at the beginning of this year. I think I've done a better job plate discipline-wise. That's helping me square the ball up more, and I think I'm having better at-bats overall because of that."

Turner's start at the plate, combined with the fact that shortstop Danny Espinosa has scuffled offensively at times this season, has prompted speculation that Turner could take over as the Nats' starting shortstop.

Despite the fact that he is batting .200/.296/.341, Espinosa has seven home runs, including four in the last seven games, and usually bats near the bottom of the team's lineup. And the Nationals value Espinosa's defense at shortstop, which has been one of the best in the league -- he's rated as the fourth-best defensive shortstop in baseball by Fangraphs in terms of Ultimate Zone Rating.

And although Turner is filling up the box score, the Nationals would still like him make some improvements defensively. He has committed eight errors this season, and he acknowledged a tendency to still make what he called "dumb plays," although Baker called them errors of youth that resulted from being in a hurry.

"The biggest thing for everyone, especially at a high level, is making plays to your right, backhands, and then also throwing on the run, which you have to do a lot," Turner said. "I think I have improved a lot in those two categories. It's just a matter of getting reps and then continuing to grow a little bit."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.