‘Skinny’ Justin Turner explains why he decided to drop some pounds this offseason
The difference was impossible to miss even from 200 feet away.
“Come on, skinny J.T!” a Dodgers fan at Camelback Ranch yelled this month. “Let’s go, skinny J.T.!”
The fan was easily audible at a spring-training game capped at 18% of full capacity. But skinny J.T. kept his focus on the field.
It wasn’t the first time Justin Turner’s slimmer frame was acknowledged since he reported to camp for his eighth season with the club. Last month, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman joked that reporters should have Turner twirl for them on a Zoom call. Turner didn’t.
“I thought he was joking,” Turner said.
Turner just might be in the best shape of his life, but he isn’t unrecognizable. His red mane and beard, though trimmed down, are still there. He’s still wearing No. 10 in Dodger blue. But that wasn’t guaranteed until Turner re-signed in early February to end a three-month free-agent stint.
Yes, new Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer is obsessed with building his brand, but he’s also competitive and for now is getting along with his teammates.
Turner caught the critiques in those three months on the market. His injury concerns. His immobility. The notion that clubs weren’t willing to sign him, a 36-year-old third baseman, beyond two years because it was too risky.
“You’re always hearing things and teams are vetting you and asking you questions and they’re talking to other people in the organization who are familiar with you and asking those guys about you and what you’re all about,” Turner said. “I learned a lot. A lot of people’s opinions matter when you’re a free agent.”
In response, Turner focused on losing weight. He joined his wife, Kourtney, for the Whole30 diet, a strict 30-day program that prohibits sugar, dairy, grains, alcohol, baked goods and other temptations.
Turner completed his 30 days Wednesday. His weight plummeted to 192 pounds at one point. He’s working to bulk up to 200 pounds — a playing weight he has tried dropping to in recent years without success. He wanted to be lighter, more mobile and more durable.
“It’s my job to be available every single day for [manager] Dave [Roberts] to pencil me in the lineup, and it’s his job to decide how many days he wants me in there,” Turner said. “So I’m going to do everything I can to be available every day and not have anything physical be a setback.”
Roberts said the change will help Turner the most defensively. Range was an issue for Turner last season, especially after he suffered a hamstring injury in August. Roberts said his range — particularly his first step to the right — is noticeably improved this spring.
“He’s already made some plays this year that he didn’t make the plays last year,” Roberts said. “So, I think that right now the lateral has been better.”
Turner said the usual achiness after games hasn’t surfaced this spring. He’s recovering better. He’s fresher. Offensively, he said he’s comfortable. He joked that the weight loss would be blamed if he doesn’t open the season with a power surge. Notably, however, Turner has never been an early-season slugger; he has hit just three home runs in 148 career games before May.
But skinny J.T. isn’t preparing for April. Ultimately, it’s about being on the field healthy and energized for another playoff run in October.
After his fastball sat at only 88 mph to 90 mph in his last start, Dodgers veteran Clayton Kershaw had an extended outing against minor leaguers.
Turner open to vaccine, Bauer mum
Turner said he is “definitely thinking about” getting vaccinated for COVID-19 after Arizona announced Monday that everyone 16 and older is eligible for a vaccine starting Wednesday.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” said Turner, who tested positive for the coronavirus during the World Series in October. “I still have antibodies, but I don’t know how long those will last. So, there are some conversations going on with the training staff as to the pros and cons of just getting it now if there’s an opportunity to or waiting to see how long my antibodies last.”
Roberts said he’d be “all in” on getting vaccinated when given the opportunity. Dodgers right-hander Trevor Bauer was mum on the subject.
“It comes down to personal medical history and personal medical choices,” Bauer said, “so I don’t really want to speak on that.”
Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ opening day starter, pitched in a “B” game Sunday, Trevor Bauer started Monday and Walker Buehler is scheduled to start Tuesday, but Roberts wouldn’t commit to the Dodgers’ rotation to start the season being in that order. … Brusdar Graterol won’t pitch in a Cactus League game before the Dodgers break camp and likely will not be on the opening day roster, Roberts said. Graterol reported to camp behind schedule for unspecified reasons. He has thrown bullpen sessions and is expected to face hitters for the first time this week. … Roberts said the Dodgers will cut a “handful” of players from their major league camp Tuesday. The club’s first round of cuts included 28 players.
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