Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Tough Turner admired by Dodgers teammates

Third baseman refuses to use injuries as excuse, earns respect as team leader
MLB.com @kengurnick

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The fact that Justin Turner played hurt in the World Series isn't as much a reason he's a beloved Dodgers teammate as the fact that he wouldn't talk about it then and won't talk about it now.

"I was fine," said Turner. "Nothing wrong with me. I was 100 percent. Yep. I was fine."

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The fact that Justin Turner played hurt in the World Series isn't as much a reason he's a beloved Dodgers teammate as the fact that he wouldn't talk about it then and won't talk about it now.

"I was fine," said Turner. "Nothing wrong with me. I was 100 percent. Yep. I was fine."

Spring Training information

No, he wasn't. The rumor was that Turner hurt his back in the weight room between the clinching of the National League Championship Series and the start of the World Series. He missed a team workout, but two days later started and homered in the World Series opener. He took a ground ball off his leg in Game 4 and served as designated hitter in Game 5. Overall, he hit .160 with two RBIs in seven games against the Astros after hitting .387 with 12 RBIs in the first eight games of the postseason.

"He was banged up," manager Dave Roberts said. "He probably won't share with me or with you. But from the trainers, he was very banged up. But he'll never admit to it. He still won't. That's his character and that's what's so cool about him."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Turner finished eighth in NL MVP voting in 2017, his second consecutive top-10 finish. In the first year of a four-year, $64 million contract, he flirted with a batting title before finishing third at .322 and was co-MVP of the NL Championship Series after an epic walk-off blast to win Game 2 against the Cubs.

Turner also earned respect from peers not just because of his All-Star play, but because he did it the hard way, reshaping his game after scuffling with the Orioles and Mets, being non-tendered by New York and joining the Dodgers on a Minor League contract in 2014. Roberts said along with unselfishness and accountability, Turner possesses a "wide scope" awareness of his teammates even while he is focused on his personal game.

Clayton Kershaw has seen every Dodger of the last decade. Here's how he sizes up Turner the teammate.

"First, you have to have credibility to be a leader, right? He's established that now, as far as how you treat people and what you've done," said Kershaw.

"I think everybody knows that he wants to win, wants to play, wants to be out there, be in that moment. That's the start of it. From there, he's taken on a leadership role, mentoring guys about hitting because he can really teach the game. He wants to be a guy that guys can lean on. The biggest thing for me, he's that consistent guy with what he brings to the field, how he acts, how he comes to play the game. Great qualities of a leader."

Video: Must C Clutch: Turner's two-run shot leads Dodgers

And like Kershaw, Turner absolutely refuses to use injuries as an excuse. Both bristle whenever asked about their health by the media.

"Not letting people know you're [playing hurt], that is probably the biggest thing," said Kershaw. "Anybody can play hurt and you get that sympathy from guys. Some guys have to have that built-in crutch or excuse. You wouldn't know with him, same like Chase [Utley]. J.T. doesn't show it, he just goes out and plays. We all go through stuff. It's the guys that just go out and play that ultimately get the respect of their teammates. He's definitely done that."

Kenley Jansen said he'll never forget last winter, when Turner came to Curacao for Jansen's wedding and helped talk him into joining Turner and re-signing with the Dodgers. That, Jansen figures, was above and beyond the call of teammate duty.

"You talk about a guy who nothing came easy, he had to fight for every single thing in his career, and that makes him great," Jansen said. "He doesn't talk about it, but he turned around his career. He's been in different organizations. He put this team on his back and that shows me how special he is. He keeps reminding everybody, you think it's better somewhere else, he reminds you what we have here. During the negotiations, when you're young, you can get flustered. But he came and reminded me that we have this special thing going here, and I needed to hear that. It meant a lot, coming from him, and it makes me a better person, a better player, a better leader."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Justin Turner