GLENDALE, Ariz. — Much has been speculated about the upcoming timeshare arrangement for the Dodgers in 2015 at catcher, but third base might not be much different.
After batting .311 with a .337 on-base percentage and sterling defensive work, Juan Uribe is the clear starter at third. Justin Turner is the team’s No. 1 infield utility player, becoming the first Dodger since Jose Hernandez in 2004 and sixth since 1924 to play more than one game at first, second, third and short.
But injuries limited Uribe, who turns 36 in March, to 103 games (98 starts) last year, opening the door for Turner to approach the 59 games (45 starts) he had at third in 2014.
“I think we do give (Uribe) breathers,” Mattingly said. “Definitely, we watch Juan. … and he’s pretty honest with us. Sometimes we get a bad matchup, and J.T. makes it easy to give him some days off.”
While Mattingly is wary of overplaying Uribe, he also finds that Turner wears down if he plays too often. That being said, he raved about Turner’s physical condition heading into camp this year.
“He’s in great shape this year, moving so much better,” Mattingly said. “I know he feels really good, and just his movements — looks like he’s got his base underneath him. So we’ll get a good chance to see what he looks like all over.
Maybe this guy’s gonna handle more, because he was really diligent with his work during the offseason. He was at Dodger Stadium almost daily. He was a guy who put in a lot of time in his winter training, and it shows.”
Turner had a .404 on-base percentage and .493 slugging percentage in 2014, thanks in part to a .404 batting average on balls in play.
“Obviously, he had a really, really good year,” Mattingly said. “We always thought he could hit, but that was probably over-the-top good. But if you can do it once, you can do it again, (though) I think you have to look at the whole career and say, ‘What do you think we’re gonna get?’
“I think if we look at the kind of year J.T. had last year, it’s really a pretty good fit for us, because if he continues to swing the bat like that, you’re gonna want to get him at-bats. We envision J.T. being able to play all over, being able to give Adrian days off at first, possibly give Juan days off at third primarily, and then we look at him as being able to handle second and we’re gonna see a little bit of shortstop.”
You could oversimplify it and call it a five-man infield, with one of them starting the game on the bench. However you slice it, the Dodgers are pleased with their infield depth, not only with Turner but such other potential reserves as Darwin Barney, Alex Guerrero, Kike Hernandez and Austin Barnes.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) February 27, 2015