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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Turner to start again Sunday, despite Tuesday's debacle

Jacob Turner will start again for the Tigers.


That was manager Jim Leyland’s message Wednesday afternoon, less than a day after the rookie’s disastrous outing against the Los Angeles Angels, easily the worst of his young career.

He went just two innings, giving up seven earned runs on six hits — three of them tape-measure home runs — as the Tigers lost 13-0.

But he’ll be at it again five days later, starting for the Tigers in the series finale against the White Sox on Sunday. It may not be ideal, but it is what it is.

“It’s exactly what I said: When we’ve got to mess with our pitching, these are the kind of things that happen,” Leyland said. “But Jacob might pitch two-hit ball for six innings on Sunday. I can’t answer that question. I don’t know. He did not have a good outing. It’s simple.”

The veteran skipper wanted to keep his options open before Tuesday, hoping that Drew Smyly (intercostal strain) would be ready to slide back into his normal spot in the rotation.

He’s not.

“This is going to get to the point where he’s going to miss his second start. Is he going to have to then go out and pitch a few innings somewhere? I don’t know that. I can’t answer that question right now,” Leyland said. “Believe me, I don’t like this any more than anybody else does.”

That leaves the Tigers with the option of going back to Turner — or one of the other options in the minors.

It’s both a test for the pitching depth, and possibly an indictment of it.

When the Tigers passed on adding a veteran arm in the offseason, it was with the express intent of one of their youngsters filling the open fifth spot in the rotation.

Thanks to injuries, they’ve had to start, at one time or another, five of those six candidates — Andy Oliver, currently on the disabled list at Triple-A Toledo, is the only exception — with varying levels of success.

Adam Wilk posted an 8.18 ERA in three starts in April, lasting just two innings in his final attempt.

Casey Crosby got three starts in June, going less than four innings in three of them, and finishing with a 9.49 ERA.

While he’s settled well into his long relief role, Duane Below did get a start earlier this month, but couldn’t get out of the third, giving up five runs (only one was earned). In three career big-league starts, he has an ERA of 4.38, but allows opposing hitters to hit at a .308 average, and a WHIP of 1.541.

And Turner’s sporting a 10.29 ERA after Tuesday’s debacle, and still has yet to win his first MLB game, losing two of his five career starts.

The Tigers still have high hopes for their top pitching prospect, though.

“He’s a kid that, in my judgment, isn’t quite ready for this yet, but will be, and will be at the top of a rotation, or close to it. We coulda caught lightning in a bottle, he could’ve had a great outing ... but I wasn’t really expecting that. I wasn’t expecting what happened to happen, either, but if I could’ve gotten six innings and been in the game, I’d have been comfortable with that. ... If we could’ve gotten that I would’ve been satisfied, but that’s asking a lot. Things move pretty fast up here,” Leyland said Tuesday night. “I wouldn’t want to overreact one way or the other. I think that was pretty obvious. I think he’s a top-of-the-rotation guy that just needs more seasoning.”

It’s monstrously hard to get that seasoning on the job, though.

“It’s difficult to learn at the Major League level, whether your a pitcher, a hitter, or anything. We’ve got quite a few guys on this team that have had to do that, and part of it is the pressure to win. Everybody wants you to win, everybody wants you to do well, and the fact of the matter is, more times than not, you’re not. Then people are going to ask questions, either ‘What are you doing?’ or ‘Are you good enough?’ It’s hard for guys learning to handle stuff like that,” catcher Alex Avila said. “In the minor leagues, it doesn’t really matter. Normally, the ones that are going to get it, they get it, and they figure it out it tough situations, that’s really when you figure out how someone really is, is how they react.”


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