Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman are the Dodgers’ iron men

Freddie Freeman, working stiff? The moniker would hardly seem to apply to a guy who makes $27 million a year, flies charter, stays in five-star hotels and receives $100 per diem on the road while playing baseball for a living.

But that’s the mindset of a veteran who has started all of the Dodgers’ 123 games at first base this season, even as his team, with a 19½-game lead entering Friday’s game at Miami, cruises toward its ninth National League West title in 10 years.

“It’s my job,” said Freeman, who is batting .326 with a .920 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 16 homers and 79 RBIs. “I don’t come here to sit on the bench and collect a paycheck. I don’t believe in that. No one in this world comes to work and just sits there. If they did, they’re not going to keep their job, you know?

“That’s been my approach ever since I got to the big leagues. I’m an employee. My employer has a job for me to do, and I’m gonna do it.”

Freeman, 32, has a co-worker in the lunch-pail brigade. Trea Turner, 29, has started 123 games at shortstop for the Dodgers.

Only two other major leaguers have started every game in the field this season, and they’re also teammates who play first base and shortstop — Matt Olson and Dansby Swanson, who are at 126 games and counting for the Atlanta Braves.

“I don’t know if it’s a pride or an ego thing, but I feel like I owe it to my teammates to be out there every day if I’m healthy,” said Turner, who is batting .311 with an .847 OPS, 18 homers and 85 RBIs.

“If I need a breather or something’s bothering me, it’s smart for the team to take a day off, but I feel good, so I want to play. This is what I get paid to do, so I should be doing it if I can.”

There is no Iron Man competition between players who have eight All-Star Game selections, a most valuable player award (Freeman in 2020) and two World Series rings between them, Freeman leading the Braves to the 2021 title and Turner helping Washington win in 2019. There is no friendly wager on who can go the deepest into the season without a day off.

“No one in this world comes to work and just sits there. If they did, they’re not going to keep their job, you know?”

— Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman

Freddie Freeman runs to first after hitting a single off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Jordan Sheffield.

Freddie Freeman runs to first after hitting a single off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Jordan Sheffield.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

It is more a result of the Dodgers fulfilling a pledge they made when the players arrived in Los Angeles, Turner via a trade from the Nationals last summer and Freeman via a six-year, $162-million free-agent deal he signed in March.

“When I talked to teams in the offseason, all I asked about was winning, family, and playing every game,” said Freeman, who played all 162 games in 2014 and 2018 and all 60 games in pandemic-shortened 2020 for the Braves. “The Dodgers said, ‘If you want to play, you can play.’ I said, ‘All right, sounds good to me.’ ”

Turner has played 162 games only once in his eight-year career, in 2018. He missed 62 games because of a right hamstring strain and a right wrist fracture in 2017 and 39 games because of a broken finger in 2019, but in his first conversation with Dave Roberts, he told the Dodgers manager he preferred to be in the lineup every day.

“Yeah, that’s something I told them when I came over last year,” Turner said. “For me, I never liked off days because I felt like I always just got double-switched into the game in the fifth inning or had to pinch-run or pinch-hit or play defense. So I never liked it from that aspect.

“Now it’s a little different with the [designated hitter in the National League], but I just told them that if I feel good, I want to play. I feel weird taking a day off.”

Both Turner and Freeman, now entrenched in the second and third spots in the order behind leadoff man Mookie Betts, say playing every day helps them maintain their rhythm at the plate, which is apparent by their performance.

Freeman leads all of baseball with 156 hits, and Turner ranks second with 155 hits, as the duo looks to become only the sixth set of teammates —and first since Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki and Bret Boone in 2001 — to finish one-two in the major leagues in hits.

They’re also on pace to become the eighth set of teammates and first since Betts and Dustin Pedroia for the Boston Red Sox in 2016 to accumulate 200 hits apiece in a season.

“I don’t know if it’s a pride or an ego thing, but I feel like I owe it to my teammates to be out there every day if I’m healthy.”

— Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner prepares to throw out Miami Marlins' Jesus Aguilar

Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner prepares to throw out Miami Marlins’ Jesus Aguilar on Aug. 19 at Dodger Stadium.

(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

“Baseball is a game of routine and repetition,” Freeman said. “If you take a day off, you never know if that one day off might knock you out of sync for a day or a week, and then you’re focusing on trying to get it back. … I know how my body is, how to prepare it for a game. I know how to get through a 162-game schedule.”

The benefit for Roberts is that with Betts leading off, Turner and Freeman batting second and third, Will Smith locked into the cleanup spot and Max Muncy usually hitting fifth, there is virtually no guesswork in filling out the top of the lineup.

“It’s huge,” Roberts said of the importance of his star players posting. “They’re of the mindset that they want to be in there every day, and that’s contagious. We have a lot of good players. Everyone wants to be in there every night. It’s a high-class problem.”

But with the Dodgers deep into the dog days of August and holders of a major league-best 86-37 record, wouldn’t it be wise to give Freeman and Turner more time off over the final six weeks of the regular season so they are fresh and healthy for the playoffs?

“Certain guys just are built physically, mentally, to play every day, and they work to prepare for that,” Roberts said. “I think we’ve done a good job when we can of getting them off their feet in particular games to help them physically and mentally. But I have no hesitation writing their names in the lineup every day.”

Both Freeman, a left-handed-hitting slugger, and Turner, a speedy right-handed hitter, have been pulled early from lopsided games 11 times this season, with Turner sitting for 37 innings — the equivalent of about four games — and Freeman sitting for 34 innings of those games.

“Those three innings in a game may not look like much, but that’s three innings off our feet, which is an hour’s worth of baseball,” Freeman said. “It accumulates over the course of a season. That’s like a full three or four games off.”

Freeman, Turner and Roberts are all in agreement on when that first off day will come for them this season: after the Dodgers clinch the division title.

But Freeman doesn’t envision a leisurely September as the Dodgers prepare for October. Gaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, a luxury afforded the team with baseball’s best record, is a priority for him.

“If we do make the World Series, I want to have home-field advantage, so there’s that to think about,” Freeman said. “Hopefully we can win the division soon, and I’ll get a day, but I’m OK if I don’t ever get a day.

“My body feels great. I don’t get treatment anymore. I don’t have anything hurting right now. My job is to play baseball, and if there’s a baseball game, I want to play.”

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