Turner excited for return to shortstop

Turner excited for return to shortstop

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- During batting practice in the second half of last season, after he finished shagging fly balls in the outfield to learn a position that was brand new to him, Trea Turner would run in and take grounders at second base and shortstop.

That's why Turner does not believe this year will be much of an adjustment for him, as he returns to his natural position and inherits the starting shortstop job.

"Heck yeah, I'm excited to go back and prove that I can play there at a high level," Turner said. "It's a very demanding position and a lot of responsibilities. I'm excited to take that on and see what I can do."

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The 23-year-old displayed a number of traits during his electric rookie season in 2016, with his blazing speed, sneaky power and high baseball IQ. But perhaps most impressive was how he refused to be intimidated and unfazed by the pressure of learning a new and challenging position, like center field, on the fly after just six games of experience in the Minors -- and doing it while hitting leadoff for a team headed to the postseason.

That's why the Nationals have confidence in Turner to adapt back to shortstop, even if it comes with growing pains.

The organization did have its concerns about Turner at the position at the beginning of last year, and it's part of the reason why he spent the first half of 2016 in the Minors. He is quick enough to have the range to excel at the position, and he showed good arm strength at times in the outfield last season. But the biggest key will be reps and becoming more comfortable with each play.

"That's what I'm focusing on, just doing everything, because in the game I just want it to be a reaction," Turner said. "I think I'm athletic enough to do anything. It's just a matter of what's most consistent."

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Once Turner arrived in the Majors, he emerged as one of the most dynamic players on the roster. He hit .342/.370/.567 with 13 home runs and 33 stolen bases in just 73 games to finish second in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting.

Turner's success in the Majors last year helped give him confidence for 2017, allowing him to have an easier offseason instead of over-working with an eye on making the team.

"Little bit of security," Turner said. "It's comforting and relaxing to know exactly what's expected out of you."

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.