Trea Turner loves new pick-off rule for more than one reason


CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Trea Turner leads Major League Baseball in stolen bases the last six seasons.

And the last five seasons. 

And the last four seasons. 

And the last three seasons. 

Turner has averaged 42 steals per 162 games since 2017. He's done so with a high success rate of 85 percent for his career.

There are several big rule changes in the majors for 2023 and one of them is a limit on pick-off attempts a pitcher can make. A pitcher can disengage from the rubber twice per plate appearance. If he does so a third time, the pick-off must be successful or it will be ruled a balk.

Turner led off for the Phillies in his spring training debut Sunday afternoon in Clearwater against the Twins. He singled to center in his first at-bat and stole second as Kyle Schwarber struck out. He was on the run before Twins pitcher Joe Ryan had even released the ball and nobody was covering second base.

Turner could run wild in 2023.

"I love it," he said of the pick-off rule Sunday afternoon. "I'm looking forward to that a lot. Still not going to be super easy to steal bases, the game is hard in that aspect. From wear and tear on your body, I think it's going to be nice."

Given how frequently he runs, Turner is used to being kept on his toes by a pitcher constantly throwing over. MLB added the PitchCom system last season which allows pitchers and catchers to communicate without using hand signs. Turner said it hurt him on the basepaths, specifically at second base where he was picked off more than ever before. But with pitchers having to choose their pick-off attempts more strategically, it could be less of a concern.

"Last year, the PitchCom was really bad from a pick-off standpoint," Turner said. "I think I got more pick-offs last year at second base than I had in my entire career because, usually, we as middle infielders put the signs on and pitchers miss them. But when the PitchCom's in their ear yelling, 'Inside move!' it happens a lot."

To better avoid finger and hand injuries, Turner is wearing oven-mitt-like gloves on both hands while on the basepaths. It's not ideal from his perspective, but the Phillies don't want his aggressive baserunning leading to missed games. The double oven mitts were a recommendation from the training staff.

"I despise it," Turner said. "Quite the look, right? It's like, biting your hands, your first-base coach has to help you put on the gloves, I don't like it. I'm not too happy about it but it's something that I kind of need to do and have conceded that.

"Last year, my second-to-last game of the playoffs, I dove back and jammed a finger. Fingers are fine now, but it's more so moving forward, avoiding that stuff because it's just unnecessary."

The first four hitters in the Phillies' batting order Sunday were Turner, Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos. Realmuto drove Turner in with a first-inning single and Castellanos hit a two-run homer to the opposite field in the sixth.

Turner, Schwarber and Realmuto will all leave Phillies camp around March 6-7 to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. As a result, they may play more the first few weeks of camp than they would during a normal spring training.

With Bryce Harper missing most of the first half recovering from Tommy John surgery, going Turner-Schwarber-Realmuto makes a lot of sense. It splits up the lefties, puts Turner in his most ideal lineup spot and moves to Schwarber to the two-hole, where he's had more career success than at leadoff.

"He showed what he can do -- get on base, steal bases, walks, made a nice play in the hole," manager Rob Thomson said. "That's who he is and why he fits in this lineup as perfectly as he does."

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