How Trea Turner changes everything about Phillies' lineup − even when Bryce Harper returns

PHILADELPHIA − If the Phillies needed a reminder that the magical 2022 run to the World Series was history, it was there Friday at the home opener when Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins stood in the concourse beyond the center field fence and raised the National League Championship banner.

The sold-out crowd at Citizens Bank Park roared for both Harper, who pulled on the rope with both hands after having offseason elbow surgery, and Hoskins, who leaned on a crutch with one hand as he recovers from a torn ACL that will keep him out for the entire season.

Instead of batting second and third in a power-packed lineup, Harper and Hoskins and their 48 home runs from 2022 were in full uniform, but about 500 feet away from the batters box.

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"Those are the two right guys to be raising the flag, that's for sure," Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos said. "I know Rhys only had one arm (on the rope), so I hope Bryce was helping him out."

It certainly was touching. But the MLB season isn't much for sentimentality, as the Phillies had already shown by dropping five of their first six games.

So the runs have to come from somewhere on a team with a $250 million payroll.

And we saw that Friday right from the top of the order with shortstop Trea Turner, who signed an 11-year contract worth $300 million.

It was one game, a 5-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds, and only the second win in seven games.

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner (7) runs the bases on his way to scoring a run during the fifth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park on Friday, April 7, 2023, in Philadelphia.

But it showed everything about how the Phillies can stay competitive until Harper returns, presumably sometime in May, and it showed just how lethal the lineup will be when Harper returns.

Yes, even more lethal than last season.

In the fifth inning, Turner led off with a single. Then Kyle Schwarber, who mashed 38 of his 46 homers from the leadoff spot last season, followed from the No. 2 spot and belted a double into the right-field corner. Turner raced around the bases and scored with his patented stand-up slide. That gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead.

Two innings later, after the Reds had tied the game, Turner again led off with a single. This time, J.T. Realmuto, batting third, belted a two-run homer. Just like that, the Phillies were in front by two runs.

"He can hit. He gets on base. That’s why he fits in this lineup so well," Phillies manager Rob Thomson said about Turner. "He obviously slugs, too. An all-around offensive player."

The reverberations are felt throughout the lineup.

Turner has gotten a hit in each of the Phillies seven games this season. He's hitting .375 with an on-base percentage of .394. He's also a threat to steal, with 27 last season with the Dodgers.

The Phillies never had that from the top spot last season. As great as Schwarber was as a power hitter, he had a .319 on-base percentage in 2022. Schwarber also struck out 200 times.

Now, Schwarber has to wait for only one pitch, and with Turner on base in front of him, he knows there's a good chance that he's going to get it.

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park on Friday, April 7, 2023, in Philadelphia.

"I think you’ll see there might be a couple more fastballs just because they’re going to try to keep (Turner) from stealing," Schwarber said. "Knowing his game and what he does, it’s special. That’s why he was able to get what he got (in his contract). I’m happy he’s here, and I’m pretty sure the whole team is happy he’s here."

That's certainly true for Realmuto, who batted third Friday. With Turner on first with one out in the seventh, Realmuto feasted on a 3-and-2 fastball from Derek Law. He hit it 448 feet with an exit velocity of 110.6 mph.

"That’s pretty much my best bullet," Realmuto said with a laugh.

"That’s who we envisioned when we signed the guy," Realmuto said about Turner. "He gets on base a ton. And when he gets on base, he draws a lot of attention from the opposing pitcher. And that helps out the guys behind him. Having him on base that much is going to be huge for our team."

Castellanos, hitting fourth, had two doubles and a walk Friday. He's much more patient this season because he knows he'll get pitches to hit with runners on base in front of him. Castellanos had already tried the going-for-homers approach last season and failed miserably, hitting just 13 in the first of his five-year, $100 million contract.

"It’s just going to take time to settle in and get everything rolling," Castellanos said. "Once we’re able to do that, that’s when we’re going to be able to have our way with the league."

And if the Phillies can win games like this at least until Harper gets back sometime in May, that will only add one more potent bat in the middle of the lineup.

In the meantime, there's Turner setting up Schwarber, Realmuto, Castellanos and even Alec Bohm. There's a pitching staff that can keep the Phillies in the game, as Zack Wheeler did Friday by allowing two runs in 5⅓ innings, and a bullpen that can close it out, holding the Reds scoreless for the last 3⅔ innings.

It's the same formula as last year, but in a different way with Turner.

"The thing that stands out for me is we grind them out and we compete, and I love that," Turner said. "I think that’s what makes lineups really good and really deep, when you don’t give anything away. ... Things like that make it really hard for the other team to shut us out for a 9-inning game."

Just imagine how hard it'll be when Harper is back instead of taking batting practice and raising flags.

Contact Martin Frank at Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: How Trea Turner changes Phillies lineup, even when Bryce Harper returns