Turner making strong case to be NL All-Star
CHICAGO -- The list of Dodgers No. 3 hitters over the years includes names like Duke Snider and Reggie Smith, Kirk Gibson and Mike Piazza, Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp. Even Manny Ramirez.
On Wednesday night, Justin Turner again showed why he's snuck into that group this year with a three-run homer that at least for one night ended an offense's frustration in a 5-2 win over the Cubs.
Gonzalez also homered, Joc Pederson added an insurance RBI single and five relievers followed Mike Bolsinger's 4 2/3 innings in a win that made sure there would be no four-game Cubs sweep at Wrigley Field.
For Turner, Wednesday was just more of the same. He's been hitting all year. All last year, too. His hot start in 2015 led to the trade of Juan Uribe to open up third base. He now has a career-high 10 homers, all off right-handed pitching, four in the last six games. Of his 35 RBIs, 16 have come this month. At .323, he has the highest average on the club. His .967 OPS is higher than Pederson's or Yasiel Puig's.
Signed to a Minor League contract on the eve of 2014 Spring Training, Turner is not even on the All-Star ballot, but a case can be made that he should be on the National League team.
Why the Mets non-tendered him after he hit .280 in 2013, Turner says he can't answer, but what followed was "probably the most difficult offseason I ever had, going nuts, not knowing where or if I'd be playing."
Out of work, Turner rebuilt his swing working out with Marlon Byrd and his hitting guru, Doug Latta, in Los Angeles; training at L.A. Fitness and taking batting practice at his alma mater, Cal State Fullerton. He beat out Chone Figgins, Justin Sellers and Alex Guerrero for a bench role that spring, then led the Dodgers in batting average, played more games than Uribe and had a higher OPS than Matt Kemp.
Turner was the first Dodgers non-roster position player to stick the entire season, bat at least .340 and play more than 100 games in 35 years. Ten of his 43 RBIs came as a pinch-hitter.
Turner did all of that and, admittedly, wasn't nearly in the shape he's in now after dedicated workouts over the winter at Dodger Stadium with strength and conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel in order to minimize chances of his balky knee getting in the way.
Turner downplays his spot in the batting order, while crediting batting behind Gonzalez for getting better pitches to hit and Latta for mechanical tweaks that added lift to his swing.
Where would the Dodgers be without him?
"Obviously, I don't want to think about it," said manager Don Mattingly. "I'd hate to think about where we'd be without Gonzalez and Joc and a few guys."
"He's solidified himself as an everyday player," Gonzalez said of Turner.