Lorenzo Cain restarts rehab assignment following April setback

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The Royals traded Melky Cabrera to the Giants during the offseason with the idea that Lorenzo Cain would be their starting center fielder moving forward. That trade obviously hasn’t worked out so well for the Royals, as Cabrera is hitting .364 this season and leads the majors in hits while Jonathan Sanchez has been terrible in eight starts.

Making matters worse, Cain landed on the disabled list in mid-April with a groin injury and then suffered a torn hip flexor muscle during a minor league rehab assignment. However, it appears he is finally making some progress.

Cain restarted his rehab assignment last night with Double-A Northwest Arkansas and went 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout while playing five innings in center field. It was his first game action since April 24. The 26-year-old will likely need most of his 20-day rehab window given the lengthy absence, but he should be back with the Royals around the All-Star if all goes well.

Jarrod Dyson has filled in during Cain’s absence and is hitting just .263/.331/.306 over 183 plate appearances. If healthy, Cain should still get a long look as the team’s starting center fielder, but it’s worth noting that top prospect Wil Myers has started 18 games in center field this season with Triple-A Omaha. Still, most see the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Myers as a corner outfielder in the long-term, though he is blocked by Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur at the moment.

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.