GLENDALE, Ariz. – For a guy who was unceremoniously dumped and then impugned by his former team, Justin Turner is in a pretty good place.
Not only did he latch on with his hometown team, the Dodgers, but he looks like a lock to make the 25-man roster. In fact, he’s a pretty good bet to wind up in something of a platoon with Dee Gordon at second base to start the season.
That’s a pretty good rebound after the New York Mets non-tendered him and then let it be known to ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin that it was because they were tired of seeing Turner not run out ground balls. Not surprisingly, Turner isn't willing to let that reputation become widely circulated.
“I like to think I play the game pretty hard,” Turner said. “If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be here because I don’t have all the other tools that a lot of the guys in here have. It is what it is. I’m in a good place and I’m happy where I’m at.”
Turner, 29, batted .280 for the Mets last year and gave them coverage at all four infield positions and even played one game in left field. The Dodgers, unsure about Alex Guerrero’s readiness for the major leagues, scooped Turner up on a minor-league deal.
They’ve seen no signs of a lack of hustle so far, manager Don Mattingly said, adding that he likes the way Turner “goes about his business.”
“His hands seem to work really easy and he’s had quality at-bats,” Mattingly said. “It’s really the same thing we’ve seen with the Mets the last couple of years. You see a guy who’s not playing every day, but when he gets the chance to play the at-bats are competitive.”
Turner figures to get the bulk of his playing time at second base and when Mattingly gives third baseman Juan Uribe days off. He’s essentially the replacement for Nick Punto, who got 335 plate appearances last year, far more than Turner got in New York.
In other words, these whirlwind four months could, in the long run, work in Turner’s favor. He grew up in Long Beach and attended Mayfair High in Lakewood.
“I’m excited to be a part of a team and an organization that is committed to winning the way they are,” Turner said. “Obviously, it’s a pretty good ball club, and my family and friends are excited because I get to play close to home. It was a good deal all the way around.”