NEW YORK—Granted his first taste of regular big league play last year, Justin Turner quickly became a Mets fan favorite—not to mention a favorite of manager Terry Collins—for delivering clutch hits as well as filling in at second and third base.
Turner played 78 games at second base and another 36 at third last year—filling in for an injured David Wright—and batted .260/.334/.356 in 435 at-bats. But just as it seemed like he had established himself as a starter in the majors, the 27-year-old knows he has to do it again.
That's because the Mets intend to go with Daniel Murphy at the keystone in 2012. The reason is simple enough: New York needs all the offense it can muster after losing Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes from last year's club.
"I'd like to think maybe I earned the chance to play second base this year," Turner said. "But as long as I get my at-bats and get ready, then hopefully things work out and we'll see where the cards fall at the end of spring."
A Reds seventh-round pick out of Cal State Fullerton in 2006, Turner joined the Mets on an under-the-radar wavier claim in May 2010, but not before he had been traded by Cincinnati to the Orioles for Ramon Hernandez following the '08 season.
Turner hit just .231 during spring training last year to lose his bid to succeed Luis Castillo at second base. The job went instead to Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus, who lasted all of 14 games before being returned to the Blue Jays. Up came Turner, who batted .300/.364/.475 in 10 games with Triple-A Buffalo during his third go-round in the International League.
Turner realizes that another trade is not out of the realm of possibilities. "I'm definitely paying attention to it," he said. "I see all the names come up. (General manager) Sandy (Alderson) has already said that pretty much no one is off limits.
"But when stuff actually goes down like the (Angel) Pagan trade to San Francisco, it's a little crazy. You never know what's going to happen and who's going to go where."
• The Mets signed veteran catcher Rob Johnson to a minor league deal, giving the club another defensive-minded backstop to compete for a spot pairing with Josh Thole.
• Righthander Dylan Owen went 2-3, 1.73 in nine appearances for Caracas in the Venezuelan League. He compiled a 1.86 ERA and 35-10 K-BB ratio over 39 innings as a starter.