GLENDALE, Ariz. – Red-hot redhead Justin Turner has no qualms over Wednesday’s day off, even if it takes some of the sizzle off his high-temperature production right now.
Turner might have seven hits over his first 12 Cactus League at-bats, but he won’t press in order to keep himself in his current hitting zone, and he won’t dare think he is ready to go, with Opening Day less than two weeks away
So while a 1.167 slugging percentage and a 1.810 OPS might be pretty to look at, Turner is savvy enough to know that the only visual that matters is what the videotape shows of his swing.
“I mean, spring training is kind of a crap shoot because you’re not playing every day, you’re not getting at-bats every day,” Turner said. “You have days when you feel really good and days when you don’t feel so good. But that’s the beauty of it, you take the information from the at-bats you have and you go back in the cage, or on the back fields, and you work on the things you need to work on.”
So Turner continues to compile that information, even though the stat sheet suggests he has already figured it out after just five big league games this spring.
Making his preparation not so simple is the fact he is coming off microfracture surgery on his left knee this offseason. He wasn’t even ready to participate in full drills with his teammates when spring training began in February.
He spent as much time in the trainer’s room as on the field when spring training started, and when the Cactus League schedule began, the Dodgers were still slow-playing his return to action. He participated in simulated games at the outset to limit the stress and strain on his surgically repaired knee.
But that approach probably is what has led to his early hitting prowess in Cactus League games, with him showing particular skill Monday when he had two doubles, a home run and three RBIs in three at-bats against Seattle Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma.
“I probably took 18-20 at-bats back there so I probably had more at-bats than some of these guys did at that time,” he said. “But it’s about getting at-bats, making sure you feel good and taking the information from it and you go on the back field and work on it the next day.”
It’s the work, not the results, that is key at this time of the year. Turner knows his 3-for-3 day in March will never help him at contract-negotiation time.
“The best thing about spring training is that the results really don’t matter,” he said. “You don’t get any points for hitting a home run or anything down here. It’s more, I guess, a process here. You really don’t want to be putting too much into your results down here.”
Spring training is really about fits and starts, playing one day, going through a short schedule the next, and then getting back into a game the day after that. But that schedule might resemble the early part of the season for Turner, who is getting more time as a designated hitter than a third baseman, just as a precaution.
Turner admits that it might not be until June or July before he can completely take his mind off his knee and feel normal again without help from the Dodgers’ training staff. Until then, he might play third base four or five times a week. He could be used as the DH during a five-game interleague road trip in early May, although those games are at Tampa Bay and Toronto, the only major league stadiums that still use unforgiving artificial turf.
“I think it’s constantly going to be a work in progress, building up that aptitude to be to be where I can do days of work in a row,” Turner said. “I guess I haven’t thought about the second half, I’m thinking about being as healthy as possible on the [April] 4th. Hopefully by the second half, this thing is a distant memory and I don’t have to worry about it.”