Turner sticks with Dodgers

He has be­come the starter at third and one of the team’s best hit­ters

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Dy­lan Her­nan­dez

CHICAGO — Justin Turner shrugged.

“Game of inches, huh?” he said.

Turner fell an inch short of his 11th home run of the sea­son Thurs­day, as replay of­fi­cials ruled the ball he hit in the sev­enth in­ning hit the top of the short pro­trud­ing fence in front of the left- field wall be­fore bounc­ing back on the grass at Wrigley Field.

The orig­i­nal home run call was over­turned. The f inal ver­dict: triple. “I’ll take it,” Turner said. Why not?

With a 4- 0 vic­tory, the first- place Dodgers sal­vaged a split of a four- game se­ries against the Chicago Cubs. Turner was the $ 270- mil­lion team’s No. 3 hitter for three of the games.

He bat­ted there Thurs­day, as Man­ager Don Mat­tingly elected to f ield an en­tirely right- handed- hit­ting

lineup to face Cubs left- han­der Jon Lester. Turner drew a f irst- in­ning walk and scored on a two- run dou­ble by Howie Ken­drick. Lester lasted only four in­nings.

Even with the replay sys­tem wip­ing out his latest would- be home run, Turner has home­red in four of his last six starts. He is hit­ting a team- best .324 and has driven in 35 runs.

The for­mer util­ity player is now the Dodgers’ pri­mary third base­man, and the team’s public re­la­tions depart­ment has started to push him as an All- Star can­di­date.

“We saw what kind of hitter he could be last year and he’s prov­ing it again this year, so­lid­i­fy­ing him­self as an ev­ery­day player,” f irst base­man Adrian Gon­za­lez said.

Only two win­ters ago, Turner was lost, a player with­out a team. He wasn’t ten­dered a con­tract by the New York Mets and be­came a free agent.

“It’s prob­a­bly the worst off- sea­son I ever had,” he said. “I was go­ing nuts. I don’t know where, or if, I was go­ing to be play­ing. That was hard.”

Shortly be­fore the start of spring train­ing, he was signed to a mi­nor league con­tract by the Dodgers.

He made the team out of camp as a util­ity player and re­sponded with the best sea­son of his ca­reer, bat­ting .340 with seven home runs and 43 runs bat­ted in as a part­time player.

In ad­di­tion to play­ing well, Turner was home. He grad­u­ated from May­fair High in Lake­wood and won a Col­lege World Se­ries with Cal State Fuller­ton.

His per­for­mance has been as much of a sur­prise this sea­son as it was last, as there were wide­spread ex­pec­ta­tions that his num­bers would de­cline.

What he’s done this sea­son made Juan Uribe ex­pend­able — he was traded to the At­lanta Braves last month — and pushed $ 28- mil­lion in­fielder Alex Guer­rero to the bench.

Turner is hit­ting with sub­stan­tially more power this sea­son.

“I just kept work­ing on the me­chan­ics of my swing in the off- sea­son and pro­gress­ing,” Turner said. “For what­ever rea­son, the ball seems to be f ly­ing for ev­ery­one, not just my­self.”

He cred­ited his re­cent surge to bat­ting in front of Gon­za­lez.

“Get­ting bet­ter pitches to hit,” he said.

An off- sea­son of sta­bil­ity also helped.

Not only was he un­der con­tract — he agreed to a one- year deal worth $ 2.5 mil­lion — he was able to use Dodger Sta­dium as a train­ing fa­cil­ity.

In pre­vi­ous win­ters, he said, he would hit, take grounders and lift weights in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions. Now, he was able to do ev­ery­thing in one lo­ca­tion.

“I could knock ev­ery­thing out in a cou­ple of hours,” he said.

Turner said he doesn’t take any par­tic­u­lar de­light in hav­ing proved the Mets wrong.

“That book’s closed,” he said. “That chap­ter’s closed.”

And as much as his life has changed in the last cou­ple of years, Turner said he doesn’t view him­self any dif­fer­ently than he did be­fore.

“Just try to play hard and do things the right way,” he said. “When you do stuff like that and play the game right, you’ll be re­warded for it.”

Jonathan Daniel Getty I mages

A. J. EL­LIS of the Dodgers tags Chris Cogh­lan of the Cubs for the f inal out of the fourth in­ning. Alex Guer­rero made the throw from left f ield.

Jonathan Daniel Getty I mages

JUSTIN TURNER of the Dodgers watches his sev­enth- in­ning hit that was orig­i­nally ruled a home run, then changed to a triple af­ter a re­view. Turner has a team- high .324 bat­ting av­er­age.

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