One of the strongest aspects of the 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers squad was their depth on the bench. Whether it was their outfielders or infielders, the organization had a level of comfort in being able to give all starters a decent amount of rest, and infielder Justin Turner was a big part of that.
The 30-year-old played in 109 games last season, and although most of his starts were at third base, he saw considerable time at all infield positions. His defensive versatility was undoubtedly special, but what made Turner the total package as a utility man was his ability at the plate. In 288 plate appearances last season, the right-handed batter recorded a .340 batting average including seven home runs and 43 RBIs.
The red-headed infielder, like most players, would love to be an everyday starter, but in putting the team first, Turner has found his role as a utility man and clubhouse persona to be a rewarding opportunity, via Paul White of USA Today Sports:
“You can look at it two ways,” Turner says. “You can be happy about the role you’re in and prepare yourself to do the best you can or you can whine and moan and be a cancer because you want to play every day – and you probably get sent to the minor leagues. I made a decision a few years ago that I’m just going to embrace it and have fun with it and prepare myself the best I can for it every day.”
The Southern California native brings an unprecedented enthusiasm to the clubhouse every day, and that spirit has been an intangible feature of Turner’s role on the Dodgers that has caught the likes of many, including Manager Don Mattingly:
“He allows you to give multiple guys days off and it also gives him a chance to get into the lineup at multiple positions,” Mattingly says. “That makes it easier to get him at-bats. He’s high energy. He’s been great in our clubhouse.”
Turner will be seeing a similar role on the team this upcoming season. With the acquisitions of Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, the Dodgers may have improved their defense but not without increasing the average age of their starting infield. With all infielders over the age of 30, Turner may see more opportunities to play when Mattingly decides to rest his veteran infielders.
Only time will tell how Turner will continue to serve the Dodgers organization this season, but having proven his defensive ability around the diamond and his production at the plate time and time again, the utility man constantly seems to pave a role for himself on this deep Dodger roster.
Dodgers 2015 Spring Training – Brandon League