The Los Angeles Dodgers suffered a tough blow when All-Star third baseman Justin Turner was hit by a pitch and fractured his left wrist, ensuring he will begin the season on the disabled list. How long the Dodgers will be without Turner is not clear.
The organization will not publicly reveal a timetable for his return, though general manager Farhan Zaidi indicated the hope is Turner’s absence will be weeks as opposed to months. However long his absence runs, the void is substantial.
Turner is an outstanding fielder at third base, but there is a plan to replace him in the field as Logan Forsythe will move from second to third base, with Kiké Hernandez, Chase Utley and Austin Barnes expected to see extended time at second.
Where the Dodgers will have trouble replacing Turner is in the batting order, as he hits third in the lineup and has come up with countless clutch hits in the last few seasons.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts initially indicated Cody Bellinger would be moved from his cleanup spot to hitting third. But it now appears Roberts will give Yasiel Puig ample opportunities to prove his meddle as the team’s No. 3 batter, via SportsNet LA:
“The more I thought about Yasiel and the presence that he has in the box, him against right-handed pitching and the at-bat quality last year and this spring, has been very consistent. Right now, losing JT, having Yasiel there, where it’s every single night or different times having him there, is an opportunity for him and gives us a chance to be considerably better with JT not in the lineup. The No. 1 thing is he’s staying in the strike zone. It seems now, more than ever, when he steps in the batter’s box he really understands what he wants to do at the plate, and that’s really important. And I think there’s certain moments that we had last year, big spots, and for him to stay int he strike zone, keep his composure and put an at-bat together, that showed us something. Again for me, it’s an opportunity but there’s got to be some accountability. To have him hit in the three, that comes from putting together quality at-bats. Can I say right now he’s going to hit third every day? Absolutely not. But right now I want to give him a little bit of runway to show he deserves that opportunity.”
In addition to Puig, Matt Kemp has also hit third since Turner suffered his injury. The reason for keeping a right-handed bat in that third spot is clear — splitting up left-handed batters in Corey Seager and Bellinger.
Roberts previously confirmed that he plans to keep Chris Taylor and Seager at the top of the lineup, so moving either of them down does not look to be an option at this time.
As for Puig, what further makes his placement in the lineup all the more intriguing is his struggles against left-handed pitching last season. Though, Puig did turn the corner over the final month of the year and into the postseason.
Puig logged 235 plate appearances as the No. 8 hitter last season, and just four when batting third in the lineup. His second-most plate appearances (91) came when slotted fifth in the order.