Speier has Trea's back in switch to shortstop

Nationals bench coach quite familiar with position from his playing days

Speier has Trea's back in switch to shortstop

JUPITER, Fla. -- During Chris Speier's first season as a starting shortstop in the Majors in 1971, he made 33 errors in 156 games.

"It should've been about 50," he said. "I had [Willie] McCovey at first base."

Speier, now the Nationals' bench coach, knows firsthand that young shortstops, even the most talented, are going to make errors. Derek Jeter infamously made 22 errors in his first season with the Yankees. Speier will be the coach working closest with Trea Turner this spring to prepare to take over as the Nationals' starting shortstop this season, and he knows growing pains are to be expected.

"Yeah, he's going to make mistakes, of course," Speier said. "Very rare do you get that guy that comes up when they're 20, 21 and they're able to not make that many errors. ... We expect that there's going to be errors made. Now what we try to do is make sure they happen usually when trying to make a great play. We really try to clean up the consistently routine plays."

Outlook: Turner, SS/2B/OF, WSH

During his first fielding opportunity of Grapefruit League play Saturday, Turner made a high, errant throw on a routine ground ball that allowed Jose Reyes to reach on an error. It was a familiar sight for Speier, who recalled most of his errors as throwing errors.

"And what's good is, you learn about the character of an infielder," Speier said. "'OK, I've made an error.' Now, what do you do on the next ball? Is it starting to bother you a little bit? Is it starting to play head games? And that's not a problem with Trea."

Teams might worry whether a young player accumulating a lot of errors could discourage him or carry over to the plate. However, Turner showed last season that he is not easily fazed.

He spent about a week learning the outfield in the Minors before he took over as the starting center fielder for the second half of the season. Speier echoed many in the organization when he noted that if Turner could handle that, returning to his natural position will be easy.

"Coming back in, he's at home," Speier said. "So it's just repetition, fine-tuning some things. Now there's so many different elements to playing shortstop. So it was just a matter of trying to clean up some things.

"The main thing is to make sure you make the consistent play 99.9 percent of the time. That's what we want. The spectacular things -- range, all that stuff -- he has, but we're not interested in that right now."

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.