Turner encouraged by Phils' mix of high-priced vets and hungry young players


CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Even without face of the franchise Bryce Harper present in the early days of camp, the Phillies' spring training clubhouse is filled with big names and outsized personalities. 

On one side you have Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos. Directly across from them is the locker of top prospect Andrew Painter, situated next to the Phillies' top two starters, Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. In the back corner are prospects like Mick Abel and Johan Rohas, who could make a big impact with this team someday.

The Phillies have a blend of high-priced vets and young players eager to prove their worth. While there won't be many roster battles in spring training -- as of now it's just fifth starter, eighth reliever and the final two bench jobs -- the sheer talent of the group should lead to a competitive camp.

"We added a lot of guys this year and made some moves that really helped us," Turner said. "Hopefully, we've got some young guys coming up as well. It takes everybody. It's 26 guys at the beginning of the year but it's going to take 40, 50 guys to get to where we want to go. Talent doesn't always win, you've got to put the work in and execute. I think we've got the right amount of talent and guys who want to get better."

Turner was the Phillies' biggest offseason addition, a superstar shortstop on a $300 million contract. The Phillies came within two wins of a championship and then went and added one of the best players in baseball. Over the last four seasons, Turner has hit .311/.361/.509 with full-season averages of 41 doubles, 26 homers, 91 RBI, 116 runs and 35 stolen bases.


During that four-year run, Turner's .311 batting average ranks first among the 93 players with at least 1,700 plate appearances. His 106 steals also lead the majors over that timeframe. The only player with more hits is Freddie Freeman, who has six more knocks in 175 more plate appearances.

But Turner, who turns 30 this season, isn't just assuming his skill set will remain unchanged during the 10 years of his Phillies contract.

"The product's never finished," he said on this week's Takeoff podcast with John Clark. "I'm always trying to get better as I get older. You learn things, your body changes. I feel like over my career I've adapted and tried to become a better player every step of the way."

Turner has had a remarkably consistent big-league career. He was the Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2016 when he hit .342. He stole a career-high 46 bases the next season, then followed it by playing all 162 games for the Nationals in 2018. The next year, when the Nationals won the World Series, he hit .298 with 37 doubles in just 122 games. He hit .335 in 2020, .328 in 2021 and had his first season with both 100 runs and 100 RBI for the Dodgers in 2022.

Nearly 60 percent of Turner's career plate appearances have come from the leadoff spot, which is where most Phillies fans want to see him in 2023 and beyond. It's been a topic of conversation since the day he signed, whether Turner or Schwarber should lead off. Turner has the much more traditional leadoff skill set but Schwarber did show last season the value of a leadoff homer. He began nine games with a tone-setting leadoff bomb and the Phillies won six of them.

Turner does seem more likely than Schwarber to occupy the leadoff spot, but it may end up being a fluid situation early as the Phillies await Harper's return from Tommy John surgery, which is months away. Manager Rob Thomson likes splitting up lefties and righties as best he can, and going Turner, Schwarber, Realmuto in the first three spots would be one way to do that.

Wherever Turner hits, he's happy to team up with Schwarber again. They spent the first half of 2021 together with the Nats.

"He's fun, he kind of takes the pressure off you," Turner said. "Sometimes guys are hard on themselves. He lets you know you can have fun whether you're doing good or doing bad, you can make fun of yourself. When guys are taking themselves too seriously or going through a tough time during the year, he can make fun of himself and show you that you can do it as well. He's one of my favorites."

Turner was obviously familiar with many Phillies players from all the head-to-head NL East meetings over the years. Based on his own experiences and what he saw late last year on TV, he'd gathered plenty of intel on the team he eventually chose.


"When I signed, I had that feeling already, I knew that was the case," he said. "Just feel like I played against these guys so much that I know them. I haven't played with Wheeler, Nola, J.T., Rhys (Hoskins) and these guys but I talk to them so much that it feels like we know each other. It'll be a lot of fun just getting this started and on the right track.

"I've been on the other side, I've heard (the crowds) quite a bit, but watching the playoffs last year on TV, you feel how crazy that crowd is and then now watching the football playoffs, a lot of the same, bringing the same atmosphere. It's just a sports town and that's what we want, that's what we want to play in front of."

First, the Phillies have to make it through spring training healthy. Wednesday was the second day of full-squad workouts and the first Grapefruit League games are Saturday, with the Phils hosting the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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