LOS ANGELES - Each day in his three full seasons with the Mets, Justin Turner soaked up everything he could, from every source. "You just try to be a sponge," said the man who is definitely not a softy.
Turner had enough mental and physical toughness to progress from being a fill-in to becoming a regular third baseman and cleanup hitter for a division winner. This season, he has battled what his manager calls "some tendinitis issues through his knees" and a scary staph infection. Still, he finished with a .294 average and .861 on-base plus slugging percentage. He is looking forward to playing the first playoff game at Citi Field.
"Should be pretty electric," Turner said Saturday before Game 2 of the National League Division Series between his Dodgers and the Mets. "When I was a Met, that was always in the back of my mind, having a playoff game. I'm pretty excited to be able to be part of it even though I'm on the other side."
The fact that he is on any side in a major-league postseason is testimony to the trust that the Mets had in him. They were the ones who gave him a shot, claiming him on waivers from the Orioles in 2010.
"Not a lot has been made about his first couple weeks with us. I think he drove in a run in the first nine games he played," Terry Collins said Saturday.
"Justin's a good baseball player. I've never seen him play where he didn't have a smile on his face. He loves to play the game. No matter where you put him, he gets you a quality at-bat. He gives you quality defense. OK, he's not flashy, but he's a solid baseball player. And he was not only great on the field with us, he was great in the clubhouse with us."
True enough. Turner literally set the tone in the Mets locker room, becoming the de facto team deejay, sending noise bouncing off the walls and ceiling. The problem was, the club thought his own talent ceiling was not all that high. They But the Mets saw him as a reserve and decided not to keep him after the 2013 season.
Turner signed with the Dodgers and has blossomed. But if he has an I-told-you-so gene, he is keeping it hidden.
Turner appreciates everything he absorbed from David Wright, his third-base counterpart and friend. "He's the ultimate professional. He's there every day for you guys to grill him," Turner told reporters at a news conference.
There also were Baseball 101 lessons from Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and others.
"But I kind of took a turn for the better offensively when I met Marlon Byrd in 2013," said Turner, who wants to soak up the playoff atmosphere at Citi Field even as a former Met.