Amid the excitement over the trades for Manny Machado and Brian Dozier, the Dodgers are delighted for the return of Justin Turner. The Dodgers plan to activate their third baseman and clubhouse leader on Thursday, with the hope that a strong two-month finish can ease the sting of a season twice interrupted by injury.
“The expectations for the rest of the year are to win every game,” Turner said Wednesday. “Obviously, the better I play, the better chance we win. But, as long as we win the game, I don’t care what happens.”
The Dodgers are 20-29 in Turner’s two stints on the disabled list, the first for a broken wrist and the second for a strained groin.
Turner batted .322 with 21 home runs in 130 games last season. He posted a .945 on-base plus slugging percentage, the third time in four years he led the Dodgers in that category.
He is batting .259 with five home runs in 50 games this season. His OPS this season is .752. Of the nine Dodgers with more at-bats, the only one with a lower OPS is the departed Logan Forsythe.
It is not unusual for players coming back from a broken wrist to return before all of their power does. Turner cannot say for sure when he will recover all of his power.
“I don’t think anyone really knows the answer to that,” he said. “But it doesn’t have to be hitting home runs. It doesn’t have to be getting a thousand hits. It’s about finding ways to help us win games. If that means moving guys over, taking walks, whatever it is, then that’s what it’s going to take. I don’t care how we do it. I just want to win.”
Before Turner suffered the groin injury -- one he tried to play through – Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Turner also had been dealing with a jammed thumb.
“This extra time is almost a blessing,” Roberts said. “Everything that had been nagging [him] is now all cleaned up. Now all it is about is getting reacclimated to playing every day.”
Roberts said he believes Turner will return to his All-Star form of last season.
“We will see it,” Roberts said.
“Are we expecting that when he gets back, in this next series? No. But I do believe in the presence to conduct an at-bat, and to drive in a run when we need to.
“As he gets at-bats, if we can keep him healthy, I have no reason to doubt the big homer, the big double, the big base hit, all that stuff will be the same. I have no doubt in my mind.”
The Dodgers’ first lineup that included Dozier did not include Max Muncy. A wondrous first half, in which he climbed out of the minor leagues and into the home run derby, has given way to the first slump of his season.
Muncy made his mark not only with power, but with extraordinary control of the strike zone. In his past 21 plate appearances, he has one hit, one walk and 10 strikeouts. As he has struggled, Roberts said, he has started to swing at the poor pitches he had been so good at taking for balls.
“It’s hard to take a good swing on a ball,” Roberts said.
Muncy has 24 home runs, tied for fifth in the National League. Bovada, an online oddsmaker, on Wednesday listed Muncy as a 30-to-1 pick for NL most valuable player – better odds than such distinguished players as Bryce Harper, Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto and teammate Matt Kemp, and better odds than all but seven players in the league.
“That’s something you screen shot on your phone,” Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling said.
“That’s pretty cool. It’s like being in the running for a Heisman trophy: finish strong, and see if you can stay in the hunt.”