WASHINGTON -- Lucas Duda's tight quadriceps muscle led Terry Collins to insert infielder Justin Turner in the starting lineup in left field for the first time in his major league career Thursday. Turner appeared in one major league game in left field earlier this season, plus four games apiece in left field and right field in 2006, when he was in Class A.
New York Mets
Collins said he preferred a righty bat over a proven outfielder such as lefty-hitting Mike Baxter against southpaw Gio Gonzalez because the Mets have to find ways to score runs. Collins said he preferred to leave lefty-hitting Ike Davis in the lineup, though, over Turner or righty-hitting Anthony Recker at first base. Davis is 4-for-12 with a double and homer in his career versus Gonzalez. Coaches had suggested using Recker at the position.
"We'll find out," Collins said about Turner's outfield aptitude. "He catches them in batting practice. He runs them down. The speed is a little different when the game time starts, so we'll see. ... The ball is going to find you. And we've seen it everywhere. But this is not a big park, so it's not someplace where your range has got to be such and such or you've got to really worry about where you position yourself.
"We've been losing games because we can't score, so I want to see if we can get the offense going."
Said Turner: "Obviously I haven't logged a ton of innings out there, so it's a little different. I'm going to go at it the same way as if I was playing first or third or shortstop, where I haven't had as much experience as second base. I'll just go out there and play as hard as I can."
Turner agreed that convincing Collins of outfield competency could increase hit at-bats. Turner had 487 plate appearances in 2011, benefiting from Daniel Murphy being sidelined with a knee injury. But Turner had only 185 plate appearances last year. He is at 80 plate appearances this season, which is now more than a third complete.
"Obviously I'd like to find my way in the lineup a little bit more than I have," Turner said. "Playing out in the outfield is just another option for him. So I'll go out there and prove that I can handle it and make him a little more comfortable maybe using me there whenever he needs me."