Since moving into first place, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ability to remain at the top of the National League West standings has been tied to some good fortune, strong starting pitching and Justin Turner.
The utility infielder has played multiple positions for the Dodgers, who have fought the injury bug for the entirety of the 2014 season. Turner became a free agent after the New York Mets didn’t tender him a contract following the 2013 season, then benefitted from Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach becoming involved.
According to ESPN LA’s Mark Saxon, Turner and Wallach both attended a Cal State Fullerton alumni game when Wallach asked Turner why he hadn’t signed with the Dodgers:
He asked me what was going on, like, ‘Why haven’t you signed with the Dodgers yet?’ “ Turner said. “I was like, ‘I haven’t heard anything yet,’ and then, some-odd days later, I get a phone call and the next thing I know, I’m a Dodger.”
The pairing was a natural fit given Turner’s ties to southern California and the Dodgers’ need to replenish a bench that lost nearly every player. Wallach’s interest in Turner was tied to his ability to be patient at the plate:
Every time we saw him, he’d always take a good at-bat. It didn’t mean he always got a hit, but it was never an easy at-bat for the pitcher,” Wallach said. “To me, there’s a lot of good in that. I think it always takes a little out of what they’re trying to do, gets you a little closer to that hit you’re going to need.”
Turner is hitting a career-high .321 and his 31 RBIs only trail the 51 runs he drove in during the 2011 season. More impressively, Turner is hitting .420 with runners in scoring position, which leads the team among players who have had a minimum of 10 at-bats in such situations.
Turner can again become a free agent after the 2014 season and given the success he’s had and his importance to the Dodgers, a multiyear contract offer to keep him with the team wouldn’t come as a surprise.
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