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Dodgers continue to manage Justin Turner's playing time

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers battle the Mets in the middle game of their weekend series, and will do so with Justin Turner sitting on the bench to start the game, continuing an effort to manage his workload trying to keep the infielder healthy and productive all season.

Turner has been arguably the Dodgers' best hitter this season, hitting .314/.390/.567 with 14 doubles and 11 home runs in 70 games and 218 plate appearances.

But Alberto Callaspo starts at third base on Saturday against the right-handed Matt Harvey and the Mets. By design.

"With a day game tomorrow, then moving into next week, we're just trying to maximize the days he's available that would matchup the best for the guy who's playing when he's not playing," manager Don Mattingly said Saturday.

Turner was likely to get a day off this weekend anyway, and with left-hander Steven Matz pitching Sunday for the Mets, Mattingly felt it was better for Turner to sit Saturday than Sunday.

Turner is just 6-for-41 with a double and seven walks against left-handed pitching this season and has reverse platoon splits in his career, but hit .323/.385/.527 against lefties in 2014.

The switch-hitting Callaspo is 3-for-29 against southpaws this season and hit .196/.296/.250 against them in 2014.

Turner started 31 of the previous 42 games, including 28 times at third base, but the Dodgers have been cautious with his playing time, trying to prevent nagging injuries from sidelining him for an extended period of time. Trainer Stan Conte has been proactive about making sure Turner gets occasional rest.

"I work through Stan, and through Justin and how he's feeling," Mattingly explained. "Stan feels like we're keeping him stronger by what we're doing and that we'll keep him available over the course of the whole season hopefully feeling good the whole year, instead of riding him until he can't go."

The Dodgers don't have a day off until the All-Star break. Turner despite the planned days off is on pace for 436 plate appearances this season, 114 more than he had in 2014. His only season with more playing time was 2011 with the Orioles, when Turner amassed 487 PA in 111 games, both career highs.

"He's been pretty good. He knows we want to play him as much as he can, but also take care of him. He's really worked with us from a standpoint of how he's feeling. We try not to go past three in a row," Mattingly said. "We mapped it out and felt today was the right day. He's been pretty good, but he was a little disappointed he's not playing today."

So far this season, Turner has started on four consecutive days just once.