On Friday, Red Sox designated hitter/infielder Justin Turner stepped into a batter’s box for the first time since frighteningly being hit in the face by a pitch on March 6.
Turner, donning a C-flap batting helmet, tracked pitches from teammates Nick Pivetta and Garrett Whitlock during their respective bullpen sessions at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers.
Though his bat remained on his shoulders the entire time, Friday still marked an important step forward for Turner, who required 16 pitches after taking a Matt Manning fastball to the left side of his face in a Grapefruit League game against the Tigers at JetBlue Park.
Remarkably, Turner did not suffer a concussion or any facial fractures. The 38-year-old only spent a few hours in the hospital and briefly rested at home before rejoining the Red Sox last week. Leading up to Friday’s milestone, he had already resumed light cardio activities (such as running on a treadmill) and is now gearing up for on-field batting practice on Saturday.
“Obviously I want to get out there as soon as I can,” Turner told reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier). “So, just making sure I check all the boxes with the staff, the training staff, and the strength guys. As soon as they say go, I’ll be ready to get back out there.”
The Red Sox, as noted by Speier, had wanted Turner to stay out of the sun for extended periods of time to allow the scar on his lip to heal properly.
“Essentially, what I was told is the biggest effect on long-term scarring is being in the sun for many hours,” said Turner, who is also sporting a black eye. “So that’s what I’m trying to avoid and they’re also trying to make sure it fully closes and heals up before I get extended exposure. But I’m sure I’ll have something on it, something covering it up. I’ll look like a lifeguard maybe”
If all goes well on Saturday, Turner could be in line to return to Boston’s starting lineup on Monday — exactly two weeks after he was hit. The Red Sox remain confident that the two-time All-Star will be ready for Opening Day against the Orioles on March 30.
Turner, who signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox in January that comes with $15 million in guaranteed money and a player option for 2024, is not necessarily a fan of the protective C-flap he wore on his helmet while tracking pitches on Friday.
“I don’t like having the visual of it in my sightline,” he explained. “We’re going to find out soon if I really like it or I really don’t like it.”
(Picture of Justin Turner: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)