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Turnbull looks ready to fill Fulmer void

Tigers righty makes compelling case with 7 K's vs. Phillies
March 20, 2019

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Right-hander Spencer Turnbull made his case for joining the Tigers rotation with a strong outing in Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Phillies. Turnbull struck out seven and gave up three hits over five scoreless innings. After the news of Michael Fulmer needing Tommy John surgery with the

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Right-hander Spencer Turnbull made his case for joining the Tigers rotation with a strong outing in Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Phillies.

Turnbull struck out seven and gave up three hits over five scoreless innings. After the news of Michael Fulmer needing Tommy John surgery with the expectation he will miss the 2019 and part of the 2020 season, Turnbull admitted the thought of the open rotation spot was on his mind Wednesday.

“I’ll say it was definitely in my head a little bit. I definitely thought about it, but I tried not to think about it much,” Turnbull said. “I just know that if I do well I have a good shot at winning that job. I was trying to do everything I could to put myself in position. I feel like I did as much as I could do. All of that stuff is out of my hands, but I feel like I played well.”

Facing most of the Phillies’ Opening Day lineup, Turnbull turned them away with ease the first time around, striking out the side in the third inning.

He did give up Bryce Harper’s first hit of the spring — a single to center field. But on that play, Jean Segura was thrown out at third by JaCoby Jones and the next batter, J.T. Realmuto, lined to Jordy Mercer and he doubled off Harper at first base.

With his fastball in the upper 90s, Turnbull even managed to throw a couple of 91 mph “changeups” during his outing.

“I threw a couple but it’s definitely a work in progress right now,” Turnbull said. “But I felt like my slider was really good today. My fastball felt like it was coming out pretty good. Felt like it was coming out easier today.”

Tigers bench coach Steve Liddle said he was impressed with Turnbull, especially going against a Phillies lineup with obvious power potential.

“I mean he faced a front-line lineup and wasn’t intimidated and threw strikes,” Liddle said. “A lot of times when you have a young guy like that in a situation like that he tends to overthrow and lose control, but he just went right after them.”

Liddle said that nothing is set in terms of who will take Fulmer’s spot in the rotation, but Turnbull could make the decision easy.

“You know when a player does that he kind of makes the decision for you,” Liddle said. “Players make out the roster and [coaches] are just along for the ride … coach ’em up. But they’re the ones that … when they get an opportunity, try and relax and make the most of it. And that’s what he did today.”

Cisnero brings the heat

Reliever Jose Cisnero struck out two in the ninth inning and featured a fastball that hit as high as 97-98 mph on the radar gun.

Cisnero has struck out eight in 7 2/3 innings this spring and has a 2.35 ERA in eight appearances. Liddle said that the 29-year-old journeyman has continued to prove his worth.

“The thing is you have to give a guy like that some more looks and that’s why he’s around,” Liddle said. “I mean those guys aren’t just walking in off the street.

“So when you look at that radar gun and look at the swings … it’s not necessarily the radar gun but it’s also the swings they’re taking off of him … they’re not healthy swings and they are more defensive swings. And that’s what you’re looking at when you’ve got a guy coming out of the [bullpen].”

Testing the arm

The Tigers outfielders have worked all spring on using their speed to close quicker on the ball and get it into the infield. The hard work paid off when Jones threw out Segura at third base in the fourth inning.

Liddle said he thought Segura might not have expected third baseman Niko Goodrum to get back to the base after shifting inside for the batter.

“JaCoby made a great play because he’s throwing to an unoccupied base and that’s tough,” Liddle said. “He’s playing quarterback from center field and he’s just throwing the ball to the base and trusting that Niko is going to be there."

Gardenhire out

Manager Ron Gardenhire did not travel with the team Wednesday after he received an injection for a pinched nerve in his neck. He is expected to be back in the dugout Thursday.

Up next

Left-hander Matt Moore will make his sixth start of Grapefruit League play on Thursday when the Tigers face the Astros in Lakeland, Fla., at 1:05 p.m. Right-hander Corbin Martin will get the start for the Astros.