2 weeks after scary HBP, Turner back with Boston

March 20th, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On the two-week anniversary of when his Spring Training took a dark turn, Red Sox designated hitter could see the light again on Monday afternoon.

At the end of the tunnel is Opening Day at Fenway Park on March 30, the day Turner will make his regular-season debut for the Red Sox.

It would have been hard to imagine Turner being ready that soon on March 6, when he was lying in the dirt, bleeding, after being hit in the face by a pitch from Tigers righty Matt Manning.

As bad as it looked on impact, Turner remarkably didn’t suffer any facial fractures or lose any teeth. His scans came back clean, meaning he didn’t have a concussion. Not that anyone would wish to have nearly 20 stitches for facial lacerations as Turner did, but it was the best possible outcome given the circumstances.

In Monday’s 7-5 loss to the Pirates, Turner was back in that same batter’s box at JetBlue Park in his return to Boston’s lineup. And in his first at-bat, the right-handed-hitting veteran laced a single to right field.

But for Turner, the most important part was just stepping back in against an opposing pitcher.

“Obviously, after something like that happens, you just want to get back in there and check off that box as soon as you can,” Turner said. “It was good, it went really good. It's something that you’ve got to try to put behind you. Obviously, that’s not easy to do, but you just try to not think about it and take your at-bat like you normally would.”

The ultimate competitor, Turner knows that shying away is the worst thing he could do.

“Obviously, you never know what's going to happen,” Turner said. “And those guys are out there, it’s part of the game -- sometimes balls get away from them and sail on them up and in and you're just not going to be a very good hitter if you're worried about that. So I got in there, took the first pitch and then it was kind of like a sigh of relief and ‘All right, let's go.’”

Turner drew a walk in his second plate appearance and grounded into a double play in his third before calling it a day. He will play again on Wednesday night when the Red Sox host the Twins.

Given the structure of Spring Training and the various Minor League games that take place on the backfields each day, Turner is confident that he has plenty of time to be as sharp as he needs to be at the plate ahead of Boston’s Opening Day matchup against the Orioles, which is only 10 days away.

Over the last few days, Turner has been taking grounders at first base, a position he will play a fair amount against left-handed pitchers.

The day Turner got hurt, he wasn’t the only one shaken by it. The same could be said for his teammates, who already view him as a leader in this season of transition for the Red Sox.

“Great to see him in the game,” said Red Sox starter . “It's been good to have him around the clubhouse the last couple of days, just making sure he's OK and everything. Very good to see him in the game, and that he's back to being J.T.”

Without question, Turner earned some additional respect for making such a quick comeback from a harrowing situation.

“When he steps in the locker room, he's a presence to be respected,” said Whitlock.

Turner appreciated all the love he received from around the game in the days and weeks that followed his beaning.

“Yeah, I’ve been getting texts this whole time, even guys that are coming in here to play us,” Turner said. “And obviously guys in this room checking in a lot, and a lot of former teammates with the Dodgers or guys that I played with with the Dodgers have checked in. That’s nice. I would do the same for them.”