Trea Turner (finger) will start for Dodgers in Game 4 of NLDS

The Dodgers lost Game 3 of the National League Division Series to the San Diego Padres, but they avoided losing their star shortstop for Game 4 on Saturday night.

Trea Turner left Petco Park Friday night after the Dodgers’ 2-1 loss and wasn’t sure he’d play with the team before elimination on Saturday after injuring his right ring finger in a pickoff attempt when he slipped to first base in the eighth inning. X-rays on the finger were negative, but his availability for Game 4 depended on the pain. He said the biggest test would be if he could grab a racquet.

On Saturday, just over two hours before the first pitch, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said an MRI showed Turner suffered a Grade 2 sprain. He noted that there were some concerns about Turner’s status, but Turner felt ready to play after throwing and swinging. Roberts gave Turner an opportunity to start as the designated hitter, but he told Roberts he wanted to play shortstop.

“He wouldn’t be on the injury list,” Roberts said, “but I would say if it was the regular season he might need a day.”

Padres relief Robert Suarez caught Turner leaning the wrong way and leading away from first base with no outs in the eighth after Turner hit a single. Turner managed to slide back in time with a slide, but caught his finger. He had his finger taped and stayed in the game. He was left stranded at the base.

This isn’t the first time in his career that Turner has suffered finger injuries. He played a broken right index finger in 2019 and another broken finger last season. He said Friday night that he would wear gloves on both hands on the bases if he played on Saturday. He normally only wears a glove on his left hand.

Turner got off to a good start this postseason, hitting home runs in two of his first six plate appearances, but he’s struggled since. He made two mistakes 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 hit out on his first two plate appearances Friday, including one in the third inning with two runners on base and one out, and surfaced with a runner on third in the fifth. He led the eighth inning with a single but remained stranded as the Dodgers’ problems with runners in goal position continued.

Gavin Lux and Chris Taylor are the Dodgers’ other two shortstop options. However, neither has started a game at shortstop this season. Hanser Alberto, who is not on the Dodgers’ NLDS roster, is the only player besides Turner to have started a game there. Alberto started two.

Lux, a minor league shortstop, played 31 innings at shortstop in 2022. He should start at second base on Saturday. Taylor logged just one inning at shortstop. He was supposed to be the Dodgers’ left fielder on Saturday.

There’s a chance the Dodgers will have to find another starting shortstop for 2023 when Turner hits free agency this winter.

The 29-year-old All-Star’s 6.3 WAR (wins over substitutes) ranked second among major league shortstops this season. His .298 batting average was second, his .466 slugging percentage third, and his 27 steals fourth. He is expected to attract contenders for the majors as one of the top talents in the market alongside fellow shortstops Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson.

A loss on Saturday and his career as a Dodger could be over.

Cody Bellinger on the bench

The Dodgers’ lineup on Saturday had one notable surprise: Cody Bellinger was absent. Despite running into right-hander Joe Musgrove, the Dodgers opted to bench Bellinger and let Trayce Thompson start in midfield.

Roberts pointed to Bellinger’s poor history against Musgrove – he’s two to 17 against him – and said the team liked Thompson and Taylor’s chances to produce better. But the decision seemed to have surprised Bellinger.

“He was upset,” Roberts said. “He wanted to be there. He expected to be there. I’ve played him against right-handers all year and he wanted to be there. But he also said he will be ready for whatever we need.”

The Dodgers stuck with Bellinger as their everyday midfielder for most of the regular season, despite him being one of the worst hitters in the majors for a third straight season after winning the 2019 NL Most Valuable Player award. They switched their approach in September, which relegated Bellinger to a draft player against right-handed starting pitchers.

The Dodgers followed this script in the first three games of the NLDS: Bellinger started in Game 1 and Game 2 against right-handers before being benched in Game 3 against left-hander Blake Snell. But they changed course on Saturday, illustrating a precipitous drop from MVP to bencher in three years. Trea Turner (finger) will start for Dodgers in Game 4 of NLDS

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