It would be an understatement to say Trea Turner has had one of the more stressful two-week stretches of his major league career.
The All-Star shortstop tested positive for COVID-19 on July 28. Two days later, he was traded from the Washington Nationals to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a blockbuster deal that also included All-Star pitcher Max Scherzer.
While Scherzer made his Dodgers debut on Wednesday, Turner needed to wait to clear COVID-19 protocols. He was activated on Friday before the Dodgers opened a weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels and in the starting lineup on Saturday.
“It’s been one of the crazier weeks of my life, having to deal with just COVID in general and then getting traded across the country,” Turner said. “The last two weeks have been weird because I would go back and forth — oh, they’re not gonna trade me; yep, they are — you kind of got to be prepared for whatever.”
Turner felt like he got lucky — both with his health and new club. He said he’s dropped some weight but should be able to gain it back quickly while he goes from a rebuilding situation in Washington to a playoff chase with the defending World Series champions.
Turner is second in the NL with a .321 batting average with 18 home runs and 49 RBI’s in 97 games. He made his Dodgers debut as a pinch-hitter during Friday’s game and popped out in foul territory to the catcher.
After being the Nationals regular shortstop since 2017, Turner will be moving to second base with the Dodgers. Manager Dave Roberts discussed the change with Turner and said that he embraced the opportunity to return to a position he last played in 2016.
Corey Seager will remain the Dodgers regular shortstop but Turner will occasionally play there when Seager has a day off.
“You look up and down the lineup, and you’ve got All-Stars, MVPs and guys that have done a lot in the postseason. So you just try to slot in where you can and contribute where you can,” Turner said. “I just like playing every day and try to contribute as much as I can.”
Roberts will have Turner batting leadoff this weekend while Mookie Betts moves down to third in the order and Max Muncy staying second. Roberts said he wants to use Turner’s speed to create some early opportunities. He is batting .317 in 43 games when leading off.
“I want to make sure Trea is comfortable,” Roberts said. “This is something different for him, as far as the trade. Getting him comfortable is really important for him and the Dodgers.”
In his first comments since being traded, Turner also expressed some frustration though with the Nationals. General manager Mike Rizzo said after the trade that one reason Turner was sent to Los Angeles was because he and his agents didn’t want to discuss an extension until getting a clearer picture of the shortstop market.
“I’ve been pretty honest. I said I would talk about an extension whenever and waited for that to happen, and it didn’t happen,” Turner said. “I’ve been told a lot of things over the last two years. For me, actions speak louder than words. That’s kind of in the past now, it’s over with, and I’m excited to start a new chapter.”
Turner’s impact was immediately felt in first start on Saturday night. He led off the game with a walk, and scored two pitches later on a double to the gap in left-center.
In the middle innings, his dynamic defense was on display as he made multiple web gems. Turner’s defensive IQ and baseball acumen are something the Dodgers desperately need, after committing their 67h error, leading to their MLB-worst 61st unearned run of the season.
“Dynamic is not even doing it justice,” said Roberts about Turner’s tools. “To go in there and play second base, make the plays he made. A few were game-changing plays that he made look pretty effortlessly…our fans are going to be in for a treat.”
Turner late recorded his first single in a Dodgers uniform and immediately stole second.
“He has a green light,” Roberts said of Turner’s stolen base. “The speed, intelligence, and baseball IQ…he creates tension. It’s going to allow us to put up number each inning, instead of one big number in an inning. Now, we can tack on a run here or there if he’s on base, which is often.”