'Spark plug': Nationals counting on new-slash-old SS Turner

WASHINGTON (AP) Trea Turner joked that no one paid any attention to him when he went out to dinner with Bryce Harper during spring training. Everyone wanted photos with the 2015 NL MVP and ignored last season's runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year.

One suspects that if Turner is able to reproduce anything resembling what he did in his first taste of the majors, he will be well known soon enough, although the Washington Nationals shortstop doesn't necessarily subscribe to that theory.

''Everybody seems to think that's going to change pretty quick. I don't think that's going to change for a while,'' Turner said with a smile at Nationals Park on Friday, when Washington's exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox was canceled because of rain.

''I imagine that, maybe here in D.C., people will recognize me maybe a little bit more, but for the most part, I can walk through a giant crowd anywhere else and nobody would know me,'' he said. ''And that's perfectly fine.''

Turner could very well be the key to Washington's hopes of repeating as NL East champions once they open the regular season Monday by hosting the Miami Marlins.

He is expected to hit at the top of the lineup, bringing consistency, power and speed that sets things up for those who bat behind him.

In roughly half a season in 2016 - 307 at-bats - he batted .342 with 13 homers, 40 RBIs and 33 steals.

''He's a spark plug. What he did last season was so unexpected. I mean, you knew, you kind of heard these rumblings ... that this kid's going to be a good player and blah, blah, blah,'' left fielder Jayson Werth said. ''But until you actually see it, you don't really know. Then you see it at that level? If he started the season and played like that all season, is he the MVP? Rookie of the Year, easily? If he kept hitting home runs like that, kept stealing bases like that - that was one of the best half-seasons I've ever seen.''

And Turner did it while learning a new position on the fly: Long a shortstop, Turner was shifted to center field as a rookie in Washington.

Now, however, he gets to go back to his more familiar job.

''I feel like I'm in the action again,'' Turner said. ''Sometimes when you're in the outfield, you feel pretty far away.''

SALE THROWS

With LHP Chris Sale's last tuneup washed out, Red Sox manager John Farrell said the pitcher instead would throw four innings of a simulated game on Friday.

ROSTER MOVES

Red Sox: Farrell said RHP Ben Taylor, a 24-year-old reliever, made the team. ''What stood out to us was the mound presence and the poise that he's shown,'' the manager said. ... Boston reassigned RHP Chandler Shepherd to Triple-A Pawtucket, sent OF Bryce Brentz outright to Pawtucket, and sent RHPs Jamie Callahan and Austin Maddox to Double-A Portland.

Nationals: 1B/OF Clint Robinson cleared waivers and was assigned outright to Triple-A Syracuse. The Nationals said he accepted the assignment.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: 1B Mitch Moreland, who has been dealing with the flu and did not travel to Washington, will take batting practice in Florida on Saturday and then travel to Boston. The Red Sox open at home on Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. ... Hanley Ramirez had been listed at DH for Friday. Farrell said Ramirez's shoulder is improving and he could play 1B against Detroit in the second series of the season.

Nationals: 3B Anthony Rendon, who fouled a ball off his calf during spring training, was not listed in the starting lineup for Friday. ''He's doing so-so,'' Baker said. Asked whether Rendon would be ready for opening day, the manager replied: ''I don't know. We'll see. He's day to day.''

UP NEXT

Friday's game was not rescheduled. Washington and Boston have another exhibition game set for Saturday at the U.S. Naval Academy, with RHP Max Scherzer, last year's NL Cy Young Award winner, slated to pitch for the Nationals, and LHP Eduardo Rodriguez for the Red Sox.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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More AP Baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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