What’s the Dodgers’ plan for Justin Turner when Hector Olivera arrives?
Hector Olivera is coming! Hector Olivera is coming! Maybe not tomorrow or even next week, but he’s coming, and fairly soon.
And then what?
The Dodgers gave their latest Cuban phenom $62.5 million, and he’s 30 years old. Pay someone that kind of money at that age, and you expect immediate results.
Olivera has been using the minors as his spring training and has played only 12 games, six each at double-A Tulsa and triple-A Oklahoma City, where he’s currently playing third base.
Which is kinda the problem. The Dodgers’ hottest hitter is currently Justin Turner, who’s hitting .387/.424/.581 in his last 20 games, and on Friday, he was inserted into the No. 3 hole in the lineup.
You’re gonna sit Turner to play Olivera? Not likely, but then there is no simple, obvious solution. Yet the Dodgers must have a strategy, right?
“I don’t have to have a plan at this moment,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “I just think trying to find a mixture for our guys is going to be important. Olivera has been swinging the bat well, but there’s been no indication that he’s coming tomorrow or the next day.”
In his 12 combined minor league games, Olivera is hitting .388. He’s currently hitting .444 in triple-A and missed hitting for the cycle Friday by a double. Still, Mattingly said the Dodgers don’t think he’s ready for the baseball grind.
“We still feel like there’s baseball to be played for him to get back in shape, get his legs underneath him,” Mattingly said. “He hasn’t played in a while, so it’s not as easy as just showing up. So he’s still got a ways to go as far as being ready. At that point, we’ll see where we’re at. You never know what happens injury-wise with whatever situation. You just figure it out once you get there.”
In the minors, Olivera has also played four games at second base, his original position. Turner can play all four infield positions, so he could be turned into some kind of a super utility role. Mattingly doesn’t like to play Turner more than about three consecutive games, saying it’s bad for his knees.
For a team currently struggling to score, it’s incongruous to add a promising bat by subtracting one currently leading the team in hitting (.329/.396/.546). Mattingly is already struggling to get Alex Guerrero in the lineup, and the third baseman/outfielder is third on the team in homers (10) and RBIs (29) despite limited playing time.
Turner could start taking playing time away from struggling shortstop Jimmy Rollins (.197), and though the Dodgers would be giving up a lot on defensive, they might figure that Turner more than makes up for it with the bat.
They’ll need to come up with some kind of plan shortly because it should be clear, Olivera will be here soon.
Follow Steve Dilbeck on Twitter @SteveDilbeck
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