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How the Dodgers might divvy up playing time in the wake of Justin Turner’s broken wrist

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World Series - Workout Day - Dodger Stadium Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

PHOENIX — The Dodgers had a relatively uneventful spring training camp, until Monday night when third baseman Justin Turner broke his wrist after getting hit by a pitch. Now the question is how does the club replace an All-Star?

We don’t yet know a timetable for his return, but Turner will certainly begin the season on the disabled list and his time away will be measured in weeks, not days.

“It’s disappointing news obviously but we do feel good about our internal options. We do have guys who can move around and play multiple positions including third,” general manager Farhan Zaidi said. “We have some very capable guys who are have their chance to seize this opportunity and get more playing time than they would have otherwise.”

This is an understatement but what the Dodgers miss with Turner is immense, both at the plate and in the field. Not only did he hit .322/.415/.530 last season, but he has also been a plus defender at third base during his Dodgers tenure. In his three seasons as a regular at third Turner has been 26 runs above average in Total Zone Rating, 18 runs above average in Defensive Runs Saved and +16 runs in Ultimate Zone Rating.

“We’re not as good a team without JT,” Zaidi said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Turner spent 19 days on the disabled list last May and June with a hamstring strain, and Logan Forsythe started 12 of those games at third base, with Kiké Hernandez starting five and Chris Taylor two games. This was before Taylor started a major league game in the outfield. Now, it’s the team’s preferred position for him.

“For us we like Taylor in center field and we like him at at short when he needs to play short,” manager Dave Roberts said.

Forsythe started 31 games at third base in 2017, playing 301⅔ innings at the position. He was slated to be the regular second baseman, but now figures to see the bulk of the time at the hot corner with Turner out.

“Logan is our best defender at third base now,” Roberts said. “We see him as a second baseman with the ability to play third. That opens that conversation up.”

Utley will see time at second base, but almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers. Utley got just 28 plate appearances — only eight percent of his total — last year against southpaws, against whom he hit .167/.286/.375. The Dodgers were also judicious in how they used the now-39-year-old Utley, not starting him in more than two straight games after the beginning of June.

Catcher Austin Barnes can play second in a pinch as well, though it’s doubtful he will see regular action there.

The biggest boost in playing time with Turner out will probably go to Hernandez, who can play all over in the infield and outfield. The outfield was already crowded with the return of Matt Kemp, and before Turner’s injury getting Hernandez plate appearances was going to be a challenge.

“He’s a lefty killer. To make it a priority that he plays versus left-handed pitching seems pretty obvious, but there is some navigating that has to take place,” Roberts said of Hernandez last week. “But his defense plays and it just gives us more confidence that if the situation presents itself he’s handled himself well and we can make it happen.”

Hernandez is a career .270/.364/.518 hitter against left-handed pitching and .207/.265/.324 against righties, but a mechanical adjustment and new approach at the plate could earn him more playing time against right-handers this season.

If Hernandez is playing less outfield to open the season that could also open up a roster spot for an extra outfielder, so instead of Andrew Toles, Joc Pederson, Trayce Thompson and Alex Verdugo fighting for one spot there now could be room for two.

“It’s not ideal, but there are a lot of good ballplayers in here,” Turner said. “I don’t think anyone is going to feel sorry for us. We’ve still got to go out and play. It’s an opportunity for someone to step up.”