LOS ANGELES -- The last 10 days have been a whirlwind for new Dodgers infielder Trea Turner. He was abruptly taken out of a July 27 game after his COVID-19 test came back positive. Days later, he learned that he was being traded, along with Max Scherzer, to the Dodgers.
Turner called it “one of the crazier weeks of my life.” But it all got easier as he was able to post multiple negative tests and cleared protocols, allowing him to make his Dodgers debut with a pinch-hit appearance in Friday’s loss against the Angels. On Saturday, Turner started at second base and batted leadoff in a Dodgers lineup that doesn’t want for starpower. He made an impact immediately in the 5-3 win by drawing a leadoff walk and scoring from first base on Max Muncy's double in the first inning, and later picked up his first hit as a Dodger.
“To be traded to a great organization and an organization that’s trying to win championships is always a good thing,” Turner said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to help compete here, help play and help these guys accomplish what all of us want to do, and that’s win.”
When Turner first learned of the trade, he wondered -- like all of us -- where he would play defensively. The Dodgers are well covered at shortstop with 2020 National League Championship Series and World Series MVP Corey Seager back in the lineup after missing nearly three months with a fractured hand. While Seager is one of the best shortstops in the league, Turner is right there with him, and has proven to be an even better defender at the position than Seager.
But Turner’s ability to slide over to second base allowed the Dodgers to be creative with the trade and should allow manager Dave Roberts to have easier lineup decisions. The expectation is for Turner to be the everyday second baseman. He’ll slide over to shortstop when Seager needs a day off.
“I’m just trying to fit in here,” Turner said. “These guys are unbelievable. You look up and down the lineup, you have All-Stars, MVPs and got guys that have done it in the postseason.”
Now when you look at the Dodgers’ lineup, you see Turner at the top. Mookie Betts has been the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter for most of the last two seasons, but the outfielder is dealing with a nagging hip injury and is unable to be as dynamic on the bases as he would like. That’s where Turner fits in.
Aside from hitting 18 homers this season, Turner has 21 stolen bases and is one of the fastest players in the Majors. Because of his threat on the basepaths, Roberts sees Turner batting leadoff and no lower than third in the order. In no particular order, Betts and Max Muncy will round out the top three in most Dodgers lineups moving forward.
“Trea has hit a lot at the top of the order, and to be able to utilize his speed at the top to create havoc on the bases, I feel good about that,” Roberts said. “And then Mookie in there versus right, versus left in the three [spot] to drive runs in, I feel good.”
While Turner said his focus is to help the Dodgers win a championship, these next 14 months will help him assess if Los Angeles is a place he sees himself playing in for a long time. Turner, who said he was open to signing an extension with the Nationals before the trade, will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2022 campaign.
“What I’m excited about is that in the next few years, we have a great chance to win a championship,” Turner said. “Guys will trade all sorts of awards, sacrifice all sorts of things and money and whatever it is to win a championship. I’m excited to be here.”
Hamels throws simulated game
New Dodgers left-hander Cole Hamels threw a simulated game at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, tossing one inning against left-handed hitters Zach Reks and Matt Beaty. The initial plan was for Hamels to toss two innings, but because the lefty threw on Wednesday, the Dodgers decided to keep it at just one frame.
“It was good,” Roberts said of Hamels’ inning. “For him to throw an inning, talk to the pitching guys and [we] just wanted to see how he felt, I think that was good.”
Roberts said the Dodgers will now figure out when Hamels will throw his next simulated game, which will be at least two innings. Hamels, who signed a one-year deal on Wednesday, won’t be activated until he’s stretched out up to at least five innings.
With Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin and Danny Duffy all sidelined with injuries, the Dodgers will likely round out their rotation with several bullpen games over the next few weeks.