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Roster decision looming with Turner returning

Dodgers third baseman expected to be activated from DL on Thursday
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts agonized over sending Alex Verdugo down last week when Yasiel Puig came off the disabled list, so imagine the angst of making room for Justin Turner, who is scheduled to come off the DL on Thursday.

With reliever John Axford arriving on Friday, it's unlikely the club will drop to a 12-man pitching staff, so a position player has to go. Unless there's another timely injury, will the Dodgers remove Chase Utley from the roster? Enrique Hernandez? Chris Taylor? Slumping Max Muncy?

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LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts agonized over sending Alex Verdugo down last week when Yasiel Puig came off the disabled list, so imagine the angst of making room for Justin Turner, who is scheduled to come off the DL on Thursday.

With reliever John Axford arriving on Friday, it's unlikely the club will drop to a 12-man pitching staff, so a position player has to go. Unless there's another timely injury, will the Dodgers remove Chase Utley from the roster? Enrique Hernandez? Chris Taylor? Slumping Max Muncy?

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Despite a breakout first half and a team-high 24 home runs, Muncy was on the bench on Wednesday night with newcomer Brian Dozier starting at second base. With Turner sidelined, Muncy went from emergency call-up to slugging sensation and a supporting role in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

Muncy had a 1.013 OPS in the first half, but since the Home Run Derby, he's 8-for-44 (.182) with 17 strikeouts and a .684 OPS. In his last seven games, he's 2-for-22 with 12 strikeouts.

If the roster decision is based on recent performance, Muncy might lose.

"I see him chasing more than he typically does," Roberts said of Muncy. "I don't see him going the other way as much as early in the season. The breaking ball underneath is getting him, as it was getting him early. Hitting is tough, but right now, the last couple of weeks, those are some of the things he's fighting."

Depth is great for a front office, but not so much for players displaced by moves at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Muncy played extensively at third base until the Dodgers traded for Manny Machado. Then, Muncy shifted to second and first, but second will now be handled primarily by Dozier. Cody Bellinger is the primary first baseman who played some center field after Taylor replaced the injured Corey Seager at shortstop.

Utley has turned into a lethal pinch-hitter. Hernandez is versatile, but like Muncy, he's slumping lately (2-for-29). Taylor and Hernandez can both play shortstop and center field, so that duplication might figure into the decision.

Worth noting
Hyun-Jin Ryu, out since May 8 with a strained groin muscle, begins a Minor League rehab assignment on Thursday with a start for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga. The return of Ryu and Ross Stripling, currently on the 10-day disabled list, will give the Dodgers seven starting pitchers.

• Tuesday's trades necessitated clearing one 40-man roster spot, and the Dodgers designated right-hander Ariel Hernandez for assignment. Hernandez was acquired in April from the Reds in exchange for right-hander Zach Neal and first baseman Ibandel Isabel. Since then, the Dodgers reacquired Neal, along with Dylan Floro, in a July 4 trade with Cincinnati.

• The Dodgers had only nine hits over their previous three games, but Roberts canceled batting practice on Wednesday, saying he felt players would be better served with rest, considering the recent long trip and the hot weather.

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

Los Angeles Dodgers, Justin Turner