So much for a bullpen start: Turner will get spot start Thursday
That uncertainty wouldn’t last long — only about three hours — before the organization came up with a very simple solution.
“We only need one (starter), somewhere along the line. I don’t know where exactly,” Leyland said at the time. “I have no idea.”
After an off day Monday, Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello were scheduled to start the first two games of the mid-week home series against the St. Louis Cardinals, but the third was still listed as “TBA.” Leyland had hinted Saturday that he might be able to start Doug Fister there, depending on how he did in his first start back from the disabled list later that day.
Sunday morning, Leyland hinted it might be a bullpen day, given that he’d decided to Fister on Friday and Max Scherzer on Saturday before turning the rotation over again.
“Sometimes, that’s not a bad idea. Just make it a bullpen game. ... I’m just saying, trying to make somebody the starter for that game, or trying to bring somebody up, I’m not sure it’s not better to think maybe a bullpen game,” the skipper mused. “I mean, that’s just a thought. Not saying it’s going to happen.”
The Tigers announced shortly before Sunday’s game time that they’d call up top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, who grew up a Cardinals fan in Missouri, to make the spot start. Turner had two stints with the Tigers last season, making one start in late July, and two more in September.
He’ll be the fourth rookie — following Drew Smyly, Adam Wilk and Casey Crosby — to start a game for the Tigers, and the 20th pitcher they’ve used, overall.
“When I spoke with Dave (Dombrowski, the GM), he said, ‘Let’s give Turner a shot.’ So that’s fine. That was an option and I was thinking about it, rather than make the moves all the time. I thought about that but then we discussed it and Dave wants to give Turner a shot and that’s fine. No problem, that’s good,” Leyland said.
“That’s what they decided they wanted to do, take a look at Jacob Turner. I don’t want to get too far down the road. I have my rotation made out through the All-Star break but we’ll see how that all plays out. ... We tried Casey, pretty obvious he wasn’t ready yet. So Jacob’s been pitching good. Give him a shot, see what happens.”
Turner was in the competition for the fifth-starter job in spring training, but fell out of contention when he was sidelined by tendinitis in his pitching shoulder. Once he healed up, he ended up in Toledo, where he’s compiled a 2-1 record, with a 3.43 ERA in seven starts.
His last three have been his best, as he’s gone six innings each time, allowing one earned run, allowing 16 total hits in 19 innings of work.
So the rotation will be as follows: Verlander, Porcello, Turner vs. St. Louis; Fister, Scherzer and Verlander at Pittsburgh.
That would put Rick Porcello in line to start the first game of the series at Texas, followed by Smyly’s return in Game 2 on June 26, provided his pitching-hand blister continues to heal as it has.
“He’s doing good. Played catch yesterday, felt great. Hopefully ...” Leyland said.
But that fifth spot becomes a more secondary concern, as long as the top four pitchers throw like two of them did this weekend.
Scherzer and Fister combined to throw 14 shutout innings against the Rockies in consecutive starts, giving up 10 hits, striking out 18 and walking one.
“That’s one step. Now we get Porcello going real good and you got your big four our there. At least our big four, however you want to look at it. Then see what the fifth spot looks like,” Leyland said.
“When you start getting performances like that, and getting guys back that weren't healthy, like Fister, who is now, all of a sudden it gives your team a little different swagger. When they know Doug Fister’s going out there, that’s a little bit different than some kid that you don’t know what you’re going to get. Not to make excuses for anybody, but that’s also in the back of players’ minds. They know. Our team looked totally different (Saturday) when Doug Fister took the mound. Everybody waiting for the ball to be hit to them, everybody moving around. They know they’re not going to be standing around, a quick game. I said it all my life, you got guys that go out there and throw balls and hitting people and walking people, I don’t care whether your team’s supposed to or not, they’re not the same team. It’s just the way it is.”