While much of the roster from the team that went on the historic 42-8 run last season returned in 2014, there were noticeable holes on the bench. Michael Young and Jerry Hairston Jr. retired, and Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker signed elsewhere as free agents.
Signed to a Minor League deal, Justin Turner played his way onto the Los Angeles Dodgers roster and has been an unsung hero. The Fullerton native has played multiple infield positions and emerged from a pinch-hitting threat to a consistent bat no matter how often he’s in the lineup.
Turner spent the 2013 season with the New York Mets, his fourth with the franchise, and became a free agent after the Mets didn’t tender him a contract. He returned to Southern California aware of the expectations placed on the Dodgers and because he saw an opportunity, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the LA Daily News:
This is the reason I came over here,” he said. “I knew how good of a team it was. I knew they needed a little help on the bench. I knew there would be an opportunity for me to help contribute and from day one the goal here was to win a division, get in the playoffs and win the World Series.”
Turner found himself starting at second base Tuesday with the Dodgers facing the left-handed Madison Bumgarner. Turner hit a leadoff solo home run in the first inning and added his second of the game in the eighth to give the Dodgers a bit more breathing room.
This season, Turner is batting .333/.397/.482 and perhaps more impressively, .410 with 31 of his 41 RBIs when runners in scoring position. His .333 batting average leads the team and his .890 OPS against lefties is second on the team behind Scott Van Slyke.
With the Dodgers bound for the postseason, Turner will now get his first taste of October baseball and will likely factor in heavily to the team’s potential success.