Turner sent to Toledo, as Tigers pare six from roster
Reluctant to completely rule out the recovering Jacob Turner — idled since March 13 with shoulder tendinitis before resuming throwing this weekend — Leyland continued to include the prized right-handed prospect in discussions of the fifth-starter candidates.
That discussion is now closed, however, as the Tigers announced Monday morning they'd optioned the youngster's contract to Triple-A Toledo as one of six roster moves. The club also sent infielders Audy Ciriaco, Argenis Diaz and Ryan Strieby, outfielder Quintin Berry and right-handed pitcher Chris Bootcheck to minor league camp.
The two who may still play the biggest role in the Tigers' season this year could be Strieby and, of course, the uber-talented Turner, who is right on the cusp of being ready for the bigs.
"Dave (Dombrowski, the GM) said it’s time to get him over there, and get him going, because he’s going to be a starting pitcher in Toledo. ... I think Dave wanted to feel totally comfortable before we sent him over there that he was right," Leyland said, noting that the ability to get him ramped up to speed to start in Triple-A trumped the desire to get him an inning or two more work with the big club this spring.
"I don’t need to see him again. He needs to go pitch. He’s a young pitcher with a huge, huge ceiling, so me seeing him one more inning in spring training doesn’t mean (squat)."
"I had a great conversation with him this morning, and I think you could honestly say — which is what I told him — there could be a huge possibility that he could help this club at some point this season. I believe that. Is it going to happen? I told him I hope not, in some ways, because that means somebody’s hurt," Leyland said.
"Who knows? If we’re looking for a right-hand hitter, maybe to DH for a little while, who knows? He looks better than I’ve seen him in four years. He’s healthy now, he’s got a better look on his face — he was hurt, and it was hurting him to play."
Berry's candidacy for the 25th spot on the roster had picked up momentum over the weekend, when he smoked the game-winning grand-slam in Friday's come-from-behind win over the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla., then made two dazzling defensive plays in Sunday's 1-1 tie with the Yankees in Tampa. A career minor leaguer, Berry has something that the Tigers are sorely lacking on the roster: Blazing speed.
"Defensive capabilities, speed, bunt and run. I didn’t know him, really, to be honest with you, before he came into camp," Leyland said. "Made a helluva impression. That’s another weapon that we don’t have much of."
While he mentioned Diaz as a potential MLB utility man, Leyland was more effusive about the potential of the still-young Ciriaco, whose demotion was delayed until after he started Monday's game at third base.
"Sometimes when a guy’s been around a little bit, been in camp and everything, people just disregard him, think maybe the organization’s forgotten about him. That’s not true at all. I still like this guy a lot. He’s gotta become more consistent," Leyland said.
"But I think if this guy pops, it could be big. He’s one of those guys — if he pops, it could be something special."
Bootcheck, a non-roster invitee, was a long-shot candidate to nab the last remaining spot in the bullpen.
"Bootcheck’s just one of those guys that just has to go pitch. He’ll probably do a good job, and probably have a chance to get called up," Leyland said. "He’ll go down, do a good job. He’s got major league experience. He didn’t do anything wrong this spring. He did fine."