Trea Turner (finger) begins Game 4 of the NLDS for the Dodgers.
SAN DIEGO —
The Dodgers lost Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres, but they avoided losing their star shortstop for Game 4 on Saturday night.
Trea Turner left Petco Park on Friday night after the Dodgers’ 2-1 loss unsure whether he would play Saturday with the team facing elimination after he hurt his right ring finger sliding into first base in the eighth inning on a pickoff attempt. X-rays on the finger were negative, but his availability for Game 4 depended on the pain. He said the biggest test would be whether he could grip a bat.
On Saturday, just more than two hours before first pitch, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said an MRI exam revealed Turner suffered a Grade 2 sprain. He noted there was some concern about Turner’s status, but Turner felt ready to play after throwing and taking swings. Roberts gave Turner the option to start as the designated hitter, but he told Roberts he wanted to play shortstop.
“He would not be on the injured list,” Roberts said, “but I would say, if it was the regular season, he might take a day.”
Padres reliever Robert Suarez caught Turner leaning the wrong way leading off first base with no outs in the eighth after Turner had reached on a single. Turner managed to rush back in time with a slide, but he jammed the finger. He had the finger taped and stayed in the game. He was left stranded on base.
This isn’t the first time Turner has encountered finger injuries in his career. He played through a broken right index finger in 2019 and another fractured finger last season. He said Friday night that he would wear mitts on both hands on the bases if he played Saturday. He normally wears a mitt only on his left hand.
Turner jumped out to a good start this postseason, clubbing home runs in two of his first six plate appearances, but he has since scuffled. He’s made two errors on defense, one in each of the last two games, and made another poor defensive play in Game 2 that was ruled a fielder’s choice.
He struck out in his first two plate appearances Friday, including once in the third inning with two runners on base and one out, and popped out with a runner at third base in the fifth. He led off the eighth inning with a single, but he was left stranded as the Dodgers’ woes with runners in scoring position continued.
Gavin Lux and Chris Taylor are the Dodgers’ two other options to play shortstop. Neither, however, has started a game at shortstop this season. Hanser Alberto, who isn’t on the Dodgers’ NLDS roster, is the only player besides Turner to have started a game there. Alberto started two.
Lux, a shortstop through the minor leagues, has played 31 innings at shortstop in 2022. He was set to start at second base Saturday. Taylor has logged just one inning at shortstop. He was slated to be the Dodgers’ starting left fielder Saturday.
There’s a chance the Dodgers will need to find another starting shortstop for 2023 with Turner hitting free agency this winter.
The 29-year-old All-Star’s 6.3 WAR (wins above replacement) this season was tied for second among major league shortstops. His .298 batting average ranked second, his .466 slugging percentage was third, and his 27 steals were fourth. He is expected to attract suitors around the majors as one of the top talents on the market alongside fellow shortstops Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson.
A loss Saturday and his career as a Dodger could be over.
Cody Bellinger benched
The Dodgers’ lineup Saturday featured one notable surprise: Cody Bellinger wasn’t in it. Despite facing right-hander Joe Musgrove, the Dodgers elected to bench Bellinger and have Trayce Thompson start in center field.
Roberts pointed to Bellinger’s poor history facing Musgrove — he’s two for 17 against him — and said the team liked Thompson and Taylor’s chances to produce better. But the decision seemed to have caught Bellinger by surprise.
“He was upset,” Roberts said. “He wanted to be in there. He expected to be in there. All year long I’ve played him against right-handed pitching, and he wanted to be in there. But he also said he’ll be ready for whatever we need.”
The Dodgers stuck by Bellinger as their everyday center fielder for most of the regular season, even though he was one of the worst hitters in the majors for a third straight season after he won the NL most-valuable-player award in 2019. They shifted their approach in September, demoting Bellinger to a platoon player against right-handed starting pitchers.
The Dodgers followed that script in the first three games of the NLDS: Bellinger started in Game 1 and Game 2 against right-handed starters before he was benched in Game 3 opposite left-hander Blake Snell. But they changed course Saturday, illustrating a precipitous fall from MVP to bench player in three years.