WASHINGTON - Justin Turner has carved out a spot in the big leagues by turning himself into a human Swiss Army knife. In 269 games spread over five major-league seasons, Turner has started games at first base, second base, third base and shortstop.
Earlier this season with the Mets, he appeared in leftfield, crossing another defensive position off his list. And until a rainstorm intervened Thursday, Turner found himself in line for another first, penciled in to start in leftfield against the Nationals.
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"Obviously, I haven't logged a ton of innings out there, so it's a little different," Turner said before the Mets' fifth postponement of the season. "I'm going to go at it the same way as if I was playing first or third or shortstop, where I haven't had as much experience as second base. I'll just go out there and play as hard as I can."
It didn't happen Thursday night, though with the way the Mets' offense has failed to click, it might happen soon. Manager Terry Collins has toyed with the idea since spring training. The experiment would allow the Mets to take advantage of Turner's righthanded bat.
Though he has only six hits in his last 36 at-bats, Turner is hitting .288 for the season, territory that few Mets have achieved.
"We've been losing games because we can't score," said Collins, who has fiddled with various lineup combinations all season. "So I wanted to see if we can get the offense going."
Collins saw an opening to try Turner in the outfield when regular leftfielder Lucas Duda complained of quadriceps tightness. Collins said the dimensions at Nationals Park created a "fairly contained" space in leftfield for Turner to cover, another reason to give the experiment a shot.
"We'll find out," Collins said. "He can catch them in batting practice. He runs them down. It's a little different when game time starts, so we'll see."
It was only one of the lineup adjustments Collins considered Thursday, when the Mets were scheduled to face Nationals lefthander Gio Gonzalez. Coaches had even floated the idea of starting backup catcher Anthony Recker at first base in an effort to get his righthanded bat into the lineup.
"I didn't think that was the best defensive scenario for us right now, so we decided to go this way," Collins said. "But again, you mix and match."
When it comes to the starting lineup, the Mets increasingly have been willing to sacrifice defense for more offense. For Turner, playing the outfield represents a chance at more playing time, which has been motivation for making the conversion.
"You've just got to get work in different places every day," Turner said. "Being on the bench, it's easy to bounce around, take ground balls at first, take balls at short, go to the outfield and shag with a group. It's just something you've got to do and make it part of your routine."
Although Collins has been willing to make lineup changes this season, he acknowledged that they are no substitute for performance.
"But it all comes down to, the guys who are supposed to get it done have got to get it done," he said. "That's the name of the game."