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Juan Soto and Trea Turner both will be key cogs in the Washington Nationals lineup this season, 20-something hitting stars who are coming off top-seven finishes in NL MVP voting.

They also are both keen on improving their defense — Turner at shortstop, Soto as he moves from left field to right.

And both could be cornerstones for the club’s future if they eventually agree to long-term deals, which the Nationals have tried to make happen, so far unsuccessfully.

Turner, 27, has two years left before he can become a free agent; Soto, still just 22, has four.

Both were asked Tuesday via video conference after Washington’s first full-squad workout in West Palm Beach, Florida, about their contract status and thoughts about the future.

Soto was coy — “I just try to come here and play baseball; I don’t think about any of that,” he said — and Turner was, well, more forthcoming.

“I would love to play here, and any time that guy is on your team, I definitely don’t want him on the other team. So let’s keep him as long as possible. … It goes without saying that we’d love to play with each other for a long time. We push each other,” Turner said.

“I would love to play my entire career here. I would love for him to play his entire career here,” Turner said. “But we’ll see. Those are big, big questions.”

After helping win the 2019 World Series, Soto and Turner offered rare bright spots in pandemic-shortened 2020, when Washington tied for last in the NL East at 26-34.

Soto won the NL batting title at .351; Turner was fourth at .335 and led in hits with 78. Soto led in OPS at 1.185; Turner was sixth at .982.

“What a duo,” manager Dave Martinez said.

Fernando Tatis Jr.’s $340 million, 14-year contract at age 22 with San Diego makes it natural to wonder whether Washington might try to lock up Soto. General manager Mike Rizzo said last week there were discussions as far back as spring training a year ago.

Rizzo has said there have been talks with Turner, too.

The Nationals have seen homegrown stars such as Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon leave via free agency in recent offseasons, while managing to keep Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman.

Turner described the complicated calculus in play when it comes to making a sign-or-wait decision.

“For me, it’s risk vs. reward. It’s a simple concept, but it’s very hard to come to an answer. Do you feel like you’ve played your best baseball? Do you feel like you have way more to prove? Do you want to bet on yourself? Do you want to have security?” Turner said. “I think a lot of these things, you can’t put a blanket answer on every player. … There’s so much gray, for me, that I think each person needs to do what makes them happy.”

Notes: Martinez said RHP Max Scherzer (left ankle) pitched off a mound for the first time Tuesday, throwing “very light” for about 10 pitches. … RHPs Javy Guerra and Jeremy Jeffers were not in camp Tuesday, because the team is still awaiting their intake test results, according to Martinez.

___

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Knicks Nerlen Noels steps up after Taj Gibson exits with injury

More On: new york knicks Leon Rose’s Knicks project working, but he’s had help Knicks veteran with uncertain future not seen on bench Knicks fans dropping hundreds on last-minute COVID tests before games Knicks claw back to .500, move into fourth place in East

Starting center Mitchell Robinson is out following hand surgery, so it was hardly ideal for the Knicks when Taj Gibson limped to the locker room during the first half Saturday night.

Nerlens Noel remained in the game after Gibson’s departure, despite having three fouls and he logged a season-high 41 minutes as the Knicks pulled out a 110-107 win over the Pacers at the Garden.

“We obviously needed it, needed the size, needed the rim protection,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Next man up. We’ve got more than enough with the players that we have. I know [the front office] will look into players that are available. That’s their area. I’m just focused on the guys we have. We’ll figure out a way.”

Late in the second quarter, Thibodeau subbed out Noel and employed a small-ball lineup with Julius Randle at center and Kevin Knox, who recently had been benched, briefly moving back into the rotation. Rookie forward Obi Toppin also participated in such an alignment with Randle, but he played just six minutes.

Taj GibsonNBAE via Getty Images

Starting point guard Elfrid Payton also missed a second straight game with a strained right hamstring.

Payton remains day-to-day and is “making some progress,” Thibodeau added, but he’s “not quite ready.” He sat out 17 games bridging October and December last season with a hamstring injury.

“Injuries are part of the game. It’s unfortunate. You’ve got to trust your medical people, trust the player,” Thibodeau said. “When he says he’s ready to go, he’ll go. I have great confidence in him, I trust him. You want to be smart.”

The Knicks went with the same lineup they used in Thursday’s win over the Kings, meaning Derrick Rose got the start. Thibodeau also stuck with Frank Ntilikina in the rotation after the former lottery pick made his first appearance since Dec. 29 against the Kings.

Rose finished with 17 points, 11 assists and four steals, including a combined defensive turnover on Indiana’s final possession. Ntilikina knocked down two key free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining to finish with five points in 11 minutes.

Filed under new york knicks ,  2/28/21

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