On Justin Turner’s first day in camp this year, after his two-year, $34 million contract to return to the Dodgers became official, Andrew Friedman joked on Zoom that we should all ask Turner to do a twirl before his interview because of how in shape Turner looked.
“The last four or five years, I’ve had a goal of trying to get down around 200 pounds, or if not, just under 200 pounds. I always kind of plateaued around 201-202, never really able to get there,” Turner explained on Monday. “When my wife Kourtney wanted to do this Whole 30 diet, I jumped on board, and started seeing results right away.”
Turner said he got down to 192 pounds during the offseason, and has spent camp slowly working his way back to a desired playing weight of 200. He said he is recovering better this spring, not feeling achy or sore after playing in games, and hopes this will help him stay healthy during the long season.
“It’s my job to be available every single day for Dave [Roberts] to pencil me into the lineup. It’s his job to decide how many days he wants me in there, so I’m going to do everything I can to be available every day, and not have anything physical be a setback for that.”
Staying on the field has been a challenge for Turner, who in his first six seasons with Los Angeles played in more than 135 games only once. Since the start of 2016, after Turner became entrenched as a regular starter, he’s played in 561 of the Dodgers’ 709 games. That’s 79 percent of total games, which translates to roughly 128 games in a 162-game season.
Turner played in 42 of the Dodgers’ 60 games in 2020, the equivalent of 113 games over a full year, and that included 10 starts at designated hitter. He spent time on the injured list last year with a hamstring strain, as he did in both 2014 and 2017. Turner’s other injured list stints as a Dodger have been for a skin infection (in 2015), a wrist fracture after getting hit by a pitch that knocked him out the first 40 games of 2018, and a groin strain later that season.
So far this spring, the now 36-year-old Turner hasn’t yet homered in 40 plate appearances, though he doubled, singled, and walked Monday night in Peoria. Turner is hitting .265/.366/.382 so far in the Cactus League, though a far cry from his usual otherworldly numbers in spring training, he was not too concerned with the general lack of production, especially in games that don’t count.
“If I don’t come out hitting a bunch of homers, there’ll probably be everyone trying to equate it to me losing weight, that I lost my power. But I don’t think that’s the case,” Turner said Monday. “I feel like I’m trending in the right direction right now, and things are starting to come together. I feel like, offensively, I’m right where I need to be about 10 days from opening day.”
Even if Turner doesn’t hit home runs early this season, it wouldn’t be out of the norm anyway. He has three career home runs in 480 April plate appearances, hitting .289/.353/.378 in the season’s opening month. He has a .482 slugging percentage in the rest of the season, with no other month lower than .439.
Roberts isn’t worried about a leaner Turner being any less mean with his bat.
“It’s not just about his slugging. If you look at just the offensive side, his skill level as a hitter continues to be elite. We’re counting on him to get on base and drive in runs, which he can do,” Dave Roberts said last week. “He’s moving as well as he’s moved the last few years. Defensively that makes him a better player, so the net is certainly way more positive.”