The Dodgers returned to Dodger Stadium on Thursday to take on the Angels in the traditional Freeway Series. After watching the Dodgers play two regular season games against Arizona down under, the weak spots in the roster became more apparent. Not only do the Dodgers have to reshuffle their rotation after Hyun-jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw suffered injuries during or just after the Opening Series. Don Mattingly was being evasive when asked about Kershaw’s injury and when the ace first felt discomfort. Alex Guerrero would not be available for the Freeway Series with a pulled intercostal muscle which occurred during the Dodgers workout on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
Justin Turner was back in the lineup and starting at second base for the Dodgers on Thursday night. Turner, who is going to be platooned with Dee Gordon at second base, committed yet another fielding error in the opening game of the Freeway Series. While I understand that I must move on from mourning about losing Mark Ellis, I have to argue that the Dodgers can do better than Turner at second base. Even though Guerrero will be the future second baseman for the Dodgers, I begin to wonder just how long Mattingly is going to go with the Turner/Gordon duo. A temporary fix is fine, but the middle infield needs some stability especially with Hanley Ramirez playing at shortstop.
Justin Turner’s walk-up song is Katy Perry’s Darkhorse. Even though my daughters were delighted by the utility player’s song preference, I am less than thrilled at the prospect of Turner being penciled into the lineup every night. My opinion doesn’t amount to much, and I was the one who felt the Dodgers should keep Miguel Olivo over Drew Butera. I also felt that FedEx shouldn’t have been optioned in order to hang on to Butera. Alex Guerrero was my starting second baseman for Opening Day, and Zach Lee could have broken with camp in my vision. The Dodgers made slightly different decisions this Spring.
At least Don Mattingly’s plan is for one man to snatch up the position. The skipper hinted at Dee getting the chunk of the starts which would allow Mattingly to use Turner around the infield in a utility role.
“I want to give Dee some shots, because he brings another dynamic to us if he can go regular. If Dee can take that job it gives us some flexibility with Justin and how we use him,” Mattingly said. “I want to be able to use our guys all over. If somebody takes it over, we’ll see.”
While Dee Gordon has showed some extra oomph in his bat, Turner still offers a career line of .260/.323/.361 over his 318 Major League games while Gordon is not too far off with career numbers of .256/.301/.312 in 181 games. Both men had good Spring Training performances with the Dodgers, but the one who makes a bigger impact during these early season games may edge out the other.
Turner is not exactly a great pinch-hitter either. In 108 pinch-hit plate appearances, the 29-year old is hitting .227 with no homeruns. He
has hit into 6 double plays as a pinch-hitter. Don’t get me wrong. I’m fine with Turner taking a bench spot.
I realize that there are more pressing concerns for the Dodgers right now. Kershaw’s injury is obviously my biggest worry right now. Adrian Gonzalez was hit-by-a-pitch by Hector Santiago and had to come out of Thursday’s game. Scott Van Slyke took over first baseman duties, and he promptly committed an error.
Here’s to hoping that Alex Guerrero recovers quickly and gets playing time at Albuquerque. Even though Mattingly still describes Guerrero as rusty at second base, the successful Cuban shortstop could add some power and speed to the lineup when he is given the chance to play on the Dodgers. Unfortunately injuries have set him back a little, but I’m hoping that Guerrero will be the Dodgers starting second baseman sooner rather than Turner.
Turner was busy on Thursday night, collecting a walk, a single, a pop out, and an error.