As backward as it may seem, Xavier Turner swears not playing baseball made him love the sport even more.
The Indians third baseman drove in four runs and was 2 for 4 in Spokane’s 6-3 Northwest League win over the Boise Hawks at Avista Stadium on Monday. His two-run home run to left field in the fifth gave Spokane a 6-1 lead and enough cushion to hold off the Hawks.
But for Turner, who was the Rangers’ 19th-round pick in 2015, his path to Spokane included a few setbacks.
The first came at the 2014 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, where Turner was a sophomore at Vanderbilt and enjoying a nice postseason, hitting .333. That was until Turner failed an NCAA drug test for marijuana and was slapped with a year-long suspension.
Turner was sent home on a plane after the Commodores’ second-round game against UC Irvine while the rest of his teammates went on to win the College World Series.
“It was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in my career so far,” Turner said. “But it’s a learning experience, everything happens for a reason … it sucked when it happened, but all I can do is learn from it, get better and not make the same silly mistake.”
With his suspension extending into the entirety of the 2015 season, Turner turned his attention to the MLB draft. His draft stock suffered from the suspension, but once he reached the minor leagues, his baseball career finally started to take off again.
Turner played only 20 games in rookie ball before being called up to Low-A Hickory, where he tore the labrum in his left shoulder diving for a ball at third base. Turner stayed positive through the recovery process and attests it helped him in the long run.
“I was able to get my body right and really focus on things I needed to focus on,” he said.
After missing so many games the past year, Turner came into 2016 with the Indians with some rust to shake off. But after his four RBI performance tonight and a 3-for-4 outing Saturday against Vancouver, Indians’ manger Tim Hulett believes Turner is starting to come into his own.
“You can start to see him turn the corner a little bit,” Hulett said. “I think it’s a big confidence boost for him.”
After a two-run double down the left-field line from Turner in the second inning, Travis Bolin poked a single to center field with the infield in to push Spokane’s lead to 3-0.
Boise responded in the fourth, as Daniel Suero slid into home before Indians’ catcher Clayton Middleton could complete the tag off a throw from right fielder Preston Scott. Willie Abreu picked up the RBI.
Scott scored his second run of the night in the fifth, when Boise catcher Will Haynie overthrew third baseman Tyler Follis on a stolen-base attempt to allow him to trot home.
Abreu launched a two-run home run to left field in the sixth, cutting the Indians’ lead to 6-3.
Indians reliever C.D. Pelham was dominant, striking out three batters in two innings and escaping a bases-loaded scare in the ninth inning to earn the save.
Kyle Cody picked up the win for Spokane, going five innings, striking out six and allowing one earned run. Breiling Eusebio, Boise’s starter, gave up five runs over five innings and took the loss.
The Indians’ No. 9 hitter, Travis Bolin, was 2 for 4 and Luis Terrero scored twice in the winning effort.
Suero was 2 for 4 and Abreu was 2 for 3 with three RBIs for the Hawks.
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