Of the Minor-League signings the Los Angeles Dodgers made ahead of Spring Training in 2014, Justin Turner agreeing to terms was merely but a blip on the radar. Turner went on to make the Opening Day roster last season and cemented himself as an integral utility man and pinch-hitter for the club.
After a career season last year in which Turner batted .340/.404/.493 with seven home runs and 43 RBIs, including .400/.406/.500 as a pinch-hitter, the Cal State Fullerton alumnus is now the Dodgers’ everyday starter at third base. This season he’s hitting .325/.396/.564 in 63 games (40 starts).
It’s been quite the turnaround for a player the New York Mets non-tendered after the 2013 season, which paved the way for Turner to sign with the Dodgers. Even that needed some luck — a chance meeting with bench coach Tim Wallach at a Cal State Fullerton alumni game.
Wallach phoned then-general manager Ned Colletti and the rest as they say, is history. After clubbing a three-run home run in the Dodgers’ win Wednesday, Turner reflected on essentially being released by the Mets, via Bill Plunkett of the OC Register:
That caught me off guard. It was something I wasn’t expecting. I’ll tell you what, that was probably the worst offseason I’ve had – not knowing where or if I was going to be playing the next year. That was hard. But I’m happy I landed here with the Dodgers.”
Turner went on to express his happiness in playing for an organization that’s focused on winning:
It’s nice to be on a good team that’s motivated by winning from the top on down and is willing to do whatever it takes to get the pieces to win. That part of it is nice. Obviously you look around at the guys in here – Adrian and (Clayton) Kershaw and (Zack) Greinke. It’s nice to play with that caliber of player.”
The home run Turner hit Wednesday was his 10th of the season. His previous career high was the seven he hit in 2014 with the Dodgers. Turner is on pace to surpass the career-high 51 RBIs he collected in 2011 with the Mets.
Turner’s success with the Dodgers has resulted in him overtaking Juan Uribe as the starter, and holding off Alex Guerrero’s hot start to the 2015 season. The lauded Hector Olivera figures to be the next challenger of sorts, but there’s little reason to believe he’ll unseat Turner as the regular starter.
Justin Turner Doesn’t Believe Batting Third In Lineup Changes Much