FORT MYERS, Fla. — Justin Turner and the number 2 have a connection.
He was born at 2:22 a.m. in November 1984. Turner’s father, John, wore No. 2 when he played, as did one of Turner’s cousins. Turner wore No. 2 at Cal State Fullerton when it became available. When he joined the Dodgers, Turner asked Tommy Lasorda if he could wear his No. 2, to which Lasorda responded with a hard no, so Turner settled for No. 10.
Now that Turner is with the Red Sox, he has elected to wear No. 2 again — a number that has connected with fans across New England through the late Jerry Remy and star shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
“I know, obviously, there’s some history there with Bogey and Remy,” Turner said. “I’m excited to be back in No. 2. I’m excited to know that hopefully I can make Remy proud of what I do and what I accomplish. And I know a lot of guys who have worn No. 2 before me, so it is a big deal. I don’t take it lightly.”
Numbers can be a fleeting thing, though. Keep in mind, righthander Kutter Crawford sports Mookie Betts’s old No. 50. What matters more is the player the Sox are getting in Turner.
Will Turner produce the way he’s accustomed to? Will his impact be felt on the diamond in the same fashion as Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez? The answer to the latter is no. Turner is 38 years old. Bogaerts and Martinez made their marks in a Sox uniform in their primes.
But be assured, the expectation of the team — and Turner — is for him to be an impact player in the middle of the order and in the clubhouse. Turner understands that a leadership role, a quality of his pinpointed by Kiké Hernández, will take time.
“I think leadership isn’t something that’s just passed to someone; I think it’s earned,” Turner said. “Obviously, I am a new guy here, and I’m going to have to earn a lot of people’s respect and that’s OK by me. I enjoy the conversations. I enjoy spending time in the cage and around the field. And I like to think I’m a baseball guy.”
The baseball piece of it is something the Sox, and Turner, will lean on. This year will be a shift for the veteran, who has played the majority of his career at third base but will now be a DH.
“Playing defense is a part of his game, too. Just to keep him engaged,” said manager Alex Cora. “There’s a transition from being a defender, and at that age, it’s not easy.”
The Sox also will need Turner at first base on occasion. They will want to protect Triston Casas from some lefties and keep him healthy after lower-body injuries last year. Turner has started at DH just 92 times in his career. First base? Just 25 times, and 2015 marked Turner’s last regular-season start at first.
“You can take a million ground balls, but as soon as you get out there in the game, there’s probably going to be something that happens that you haven’t experienced,” Turner said. “But, like I said, I feel like I’m a baseball player. I feel like I can adapt.”
Turner has some familiar faces in Kenley Jansen and Hernández, who were his longtime teammates with the Dodgers. He said he loves Jansen “like a brother,” and he is rooming with Hernández this spring.
Fenway Park’s dimensions will work to his pull-side power, even at age 38. If you marry that with his knack for getting the ball in the air — 28.6 percent for his career, which is just above league average — that could bode well for the Sox’ power numbers, an area in which they struggled last season.
“I do like to pull the ball in the air, though,” Turner said. “Hopefully, that will benefit me.”
Turner, like Jansen, mentioned the atmosphere at Fenway. He knows the fans involve themselves in every pitch. The outcome — winning — is what’s most important.
Even more important than a number.