Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull is ready to return and he is close to being back from his COVID-19 absence to start the 2021 season. It comes a time when the starting staff just suffered an injury— Julio Teheran was added to the IL with a shoulder strain. As of this posting, he will miss several starts as he gets his arm evaluated.
Could Return after Road Trip
The Tigers are currently on a 10-game road trip. Turnbull could be ready to join the team as early as April 20 when they return home. He moves into a starting rotation that currently needs some stability. The starting staff has started the season with an ERA over 5.50. They have also given up the second most earned runs and home runs.
Being on the restricted list has not kept Turnbull from working out. He has been keeping his arm in “fine tune” at the Tigers’ alternate training site in Toledo. He also mentioned that he is healthy and excited to join the big-league team.
He was to pitch in a game in South Bend this past Saturday, but was only able to go one inning and ten pitches before rain canceled the game. However, he did throw more in a simulated contest later to get another three to four innings to keep his arm baseball ready.
He was one of the club’s best pitchers in 2020, ranking second on the team with 11 starts and a 4-4 record with an ERA of 3.97. Really interesting in his 2020 stats is that he allowed only two home runs, tying him for the fewest home runs allowed by a pitcher in MLB with at least 55 innings pitched.
He had one of the most effective fastballs of 2020 as well. That pitch held opponents to a .198 batting average. His biggest change came from his earned runs stat. He allowed just three or fewer earned runs in nine of his 11 starts.
Top Arm for 2021
When he does return, Turnbull was being counted on as one of the top arms for the Tigers. He had been working on his pitch command and mound confidence with new pitching coach Chris Fetter in Spring Training before being placed on the COVID-19 injured list. In his three spring starts, he pitched nine innings, struck out nine batters and looked in control with his pitch assortment.
Turnbull throws a four-seam fastball that can average 94–95 MPH. His most effective pitch is his slider. Batters are hitting only around .200 against that pitch. He also mixes in a curveball occasionally. His repertoire also includes a changeup that he has been improving on over the past two years.
Still Can Develop
Turnbull still has time to develop into a good starting pitcher. Some scouts say he can be an ace if he gets his mind together. He needs to continue to throw strikes and pitch at least seven innings per game, and keep his pitch count around 100 to 120 pitches.
An issue with him, however, is that he has less than 50 starts in his MLB career. That lack of “starting” time on the mound has not allowed him to sharpen his command.
Needs to Remain Healthy
Another concern the front office is Turnbull’s well-being and durability. He has struggled with arm fatigue, and has been on the IL. He also has had a history of shoulder problems in the minor leagues, including a rotator cuff strain a few years ago.
However, they believe he can remain healthy and strong after his return.
They see his Potential
When Turnbull returns the Tigers see his potential. They received inquiries on Turnbull being a trade candidate. However, they quickly shut down those requests. They are hoping with him and the other starters — Matthew Boyd, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and José Ureña —they will have a formidable staff for some time.
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