WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Trea Turner led the National League in stolen bases last season, and Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez wants him to run even more.
Turner was successful on 43 of 52 attempts last year. He had a career-high 46 steals in 2017. Martinez wants the speedy shortstop to attempt close to 100 this year.
Turner got his third steal of the spring during Saturday’s 4-4 tie against St. Louis.
“He’s kind of challenged me with going more,” said Turner, who is admittedly hesitant to make outs on the basepaths. “I haven’t ran too much in spring training — try to save them for the season — but when the season comes around try to push it a little bit.”
After Bryce Harper left Washington for Philadelphia in free agency, Martinez wants the Nationals to make better use of their speed rather than wait for big home runs.
“This year as a team we have a chance to steal a lot of bases and run the bases really well, put a lot of pressure on teams,” Turner said. “I think we should take advantage of it.”
If Turner, who played three years at NC State, is going to steal as often as Martinez would like he would prefer to be in the leadoff spot so he isn’t disrupting the at-bats of run producers Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and Ryan Zimmerman.
But Martinez prefers Adam Eaton’s pesky approach at the top of the order, announcing Saturday that the 30-year-old outfielder will begin the season in the leadoff slot.
Turner hit .271 last year, batting most frequently in the second spot in the lineup.
“I think his biggest fear is maybe hitting in front of Anthony and Soto, but I told him that shouldn’t deter what you do and that’s who you are,” Martinez said. “We want him to steal bases.”
Martinez also intends to hit rookie Victor Robles ninth, giving the Nationals a trio of speedsters in a row as the order turns over.
“Those three guys hitting together like that makes for exciting baseball,” Martinez said.
Rendon says Turner shouldn’t worry about being a distraction.
“If anything, I love that he’s in front of me because, one, it gives him an opportunity to steal for himself and then at the second time I can take a pitch,” Rendon said. “I don’t mind batting with two strikes. I don’t feel like I’m fighting for my life. I actually feel like I get more simplified, therefore if he’s on second base I have the ability to drive a run in now, and I know I don’t have to hit the ball to the wall to score somebody from first.”
Verlander staying with Astros
Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros have agreed to a contract adding an additional $66 million in guaranteed money for 2020 and ‘21, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.
The person spoke Saturday on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced. The agreement was first reported by KRIV-FOX 26.
A 36-year-old right-hander, Verlander is due $28 million in 2019, the final guaranteed season of a $180 million, seven-year deal he signed with Detroit before the 2013 season. That contract included a $22 million for 2020 that would have become guaranteed if Verlander finished among the top five in Cy Young Award voting this year.
Sale, Red Sox agree to new deal
Ace left-hander Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox have agreed to a new contract that guarantees an additional $145 million from 2020 to 2024.
Sale has been an All-Star the last seven years and would have been eligible for free agency after this season.
He is guaranteed $15 million this year under the second option year of the contract he signed with the Chicago White Sox before the 2013 season. The deal wound up to be worth $59 million over seven years plus award bonuses.
The contract announced Saturday adds $30 million salaries annually from 2020-22 and $27.5 million a year in 2023 and 2024.
MLB suspends Giants CEO Baer for altercation with wife
Major League Baseball suspended San Francisco Giants President and CEO Larry Baer without pay through July 1 after a video showed him in a physical altercation with his wife.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday his office conducted an investigation of the events shown on a video released by TMZ of the altercation on March 1 between Baer and his wife, Pam, in a San Francisco plaza. Manfred said he also talked to Baer before making his ruling.
“I have concluded that Mr. Baer’s conduct was unacceptable under MLB policies and warrants discipline,” Manfred said. “In determining the appropriate level of discipline, I find that Mr. Baer should be held to a higher standard because as a leader he is expected to be a role model for others in his organization and community. Based on my conversation with Mr. Baer, it is clear that he regrets what transpired and takes responsibility for his conduct.”
Baer took a leave of absence after TMZ released the video. Manfred said the unpaid suspension will date back to when Baer stepped away on March 4.
The video posted by TMZ showed Pam seated in a chair when he reached over her to grab for a cellphone in her right hand and she toppled sideways to the ground in the chair screaming “Oh my God!” The couple later released a statement saying they were embarrassed by the situation and regretted having a heated argument in public.