Bill Ladson

Turning heads: Trea impresses leadoff great Raines

7-time All-Star also transitioned from infield to outfield, expects 'exciting things' from rookie

Turning heads: Trea impresses leadoff great Raines

WASHINGTON -- Center fielder and leadoff hitter Trea Turner is one of the reasons the Nationals are in first place in the National League East. He is the one that makes the offense click. Entering Monday's action, Turner was hitting .343 with eight home runs, 30 RBIs and a team-leading 23 stolen bases in just 54 games.

One person who is impressed with Turner's success is a leadoff hitter extraordinaire himself, Tim Raines -- who, like Turner, transitioned from the infield to the outfield.

Most of the damage Raines inflicted from the top of the batting order was as a member of the Expos and White Sox. During Raines' prime of 1981-92, he scored 90 or more runs eight times, led the league in stolen bases four times, was an All-Star seven times and hit .290 or better seven times. When asked about Turner, Raines said he wouldn't be surprised if Turner became a star for years to come.

"I really like Turner. I like him a lot," said Raines, who is a Minor League baserunning and outfield coach for the Blue Jays. "I like the way he plays. I like his aggressiveness on the bases, and he has power. He has good power. I don't think I had power like that. As far as offense is concerned, he has a chance to do some exciting things."

Like Turner, Raines started his professional career as an infielder, but he moved to left field during his first full year in the big leagues. Raines believes Turner will get better jumps in the outfield as long as he works hard during live batting practice.

It's during those sessions, according to Raines, that Turner will get a better idea when it comes to judging fly balls.

"I would tell Turner, 'During batting practice, work as hard as you can during live batting practice, because that's the best work to teach a kid,'" Raines said. "You can hit fungos all day, you can do simulated stuff, but nothing compares to reading fly balls off live bats. The more he does that, the better he will get. It's about putting the work in."

Turner said it's an honor to get advice from one of the best leadoff hitters in Major League history.

"Some of the biggest compliments you can get are from people who have played the game at the highest level," Turner said. "[Raines] has had a lot of success. It's an honor to get compliments from anybody associated with baseball. That's why I try to work as hard as I can. When I hear those things, it's humbling and exciting."

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.