Adam Wainwright throws first batting practice session of the spring

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Adam Wainwright required Tommy John surgery after feeling discomfort in his right elbow while throwing batting practice almost exactly one year ago. Earlier today, Wainwright was right back at it, throwing batting practice to teammates at Cardinals’ camp in Jupiter, Florida.

While Wainwright hasn’t felt any soreness or tightness in his surgically-repaired elbow thus far, he told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com that he was relieved to put this first session of batting practice behind him.

“This [gave] me a chance to conquer it,” Wainwright said. “This [gave] me a chance to get over that.”

Wainwright threw both fastballs and breaking pitches to infielder Tyler Greene and minor league first baseman Matt Adams during today’s 11-minute session. He told Langosch that he was pleased with his command and found himself throwing with more intensity than in recent bullpen sessions.

“Each time I throw, I let my body do it naturally,” Wainwright said. “I’m not trying to force anything. I’m out there just going through my delivery and my arm. Whatever comes out of it is what’s going to come out of it. Today, I noticed there was a little more something there then there was before.”

Wainwright was one of the best starting pitchers in the game prior to the surgery, posting a 2.93 ERA from 2007-2010. He eclipsed 230 innings in 2009 and 2010, finishing in the top three for the National League Cy Young Award in each season.

The defending World Series champions won’t have Albert Pujols at first base this season, but the return of Wainwright and the addition of Carlos Beltran should put them in fine position to be contenders once again.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.