The Tigers set their rotation a few days ago, knowing they wouldn’t have Spencer Turnbull for the start of the season. Now they’re not counting on having the young right-hander ready to rejoin their rotation until at least mid-April.
“I know he’s been able to do a little bit of physical activity on him, but we haven’t seen him,” manager A.J. Hinch said of Turnbull, who has been in COVID-19 protocol for at least a week. “Once we can get him back, fully cleared, then we can develop a plan for him. But you won’t see him in the first few series, for sure.”
Hinch announced on March 21 that Turnbull, 28, was placed in protocol through no fault of Turnbull's own. Under protocol rules, he can’t return to the Tigers' complex until he completes isolation and clears testing. In other cases Detroit has faced this spring -- including infielder Zack Short and reliever Bryan Garcia -- the typical time away has been seven days. The testing part can be tricky, because multiple negative tests are required.
“I have talked to him, and [pitching coach Chris Fetter] has been in touch with him,” Hinch said. “We know how he’s doing and kind of what he’s been able to do. He’s doing fine. He feels good, and he’s kind of excited to get back going. He just hasn’t been able to be cleared yet.”
The Tigers open the season with a six-game homestand against Cleveland and Minnesota before hitting the road for a 10-game trip to Cleveland, Houston and Oakland.
Hinch hasn’t said how they’ll insert Turnbull back into the rotation, but the manager has said the club will go to a six-man rotation at some point early in the season. If Turnbull becomes the sixth starter, they’ll have to make a roster move to create room. They could send down a reliever, but Hinch has sounded reluctant to go with a seven-man bullpen. The alternative is to shorten the bench to three players, which would present a very tricky decision.
Detroit is set to break camp with five outfielders in order to keep Rule 5 Draft pick Akil Baddoo. The Tigers can’t send Baddoo to the Minors without first putting him on waivers and offering him back to the Twins; they would almost surely lose him either way. So Detroit would have to either send down another outfielder with Minor League options, such as Victor Reyes. Sending down one of its utility infielders, such as Harold Castro, would leave the club with no infielders on its bench.
Daz-ling in center
A few days after Hinch discussed getting Daz Cameron time in center field at Triple-A Toledo this season, the Tigers got a jump on it and put Cameron in center for the late innings of Sunday’s 4-4 tie against the Blue Jays. Cameron responded by getting a jump on Austin Martin’s drive to center for a diving catch at the warning track.
It was a reminder that Cameron had a good reputation for center-field defense on his way up the Tigers' farm system, much like his dad, Mike, did during his 17-year Major League career that included three Gold Glove Awards.
“Yeah, we couldn’t draw it up any better,” Hinch said. “I mean, Daz is a true athlete and we need to keep challenging him with some balls. I think his setup and his reads have been a little bit better. He’s worked hard with [bench/outfield coach] George Lombard, and it paid off on that. I don’t know what the route efficiency would have been, but I bet it would have been pretty perfect. He gave himself every bit of chance, never gave up on the play.”
Cameron will start in center on Monday when the Tigers face the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. ET in Tampa, Fla.
• Rony García , last year’s Rule 5 Draft pick, will open the season on the injured list, Hinch said. The right-handed reliever hasn’t pitched this spring after undergoing an appendectomy shortly before camp began. Depending on whether the Tigers use the 15- or 60-day IL, his move could open a 40-man roster spot for lefty Derek Holland to be added.
“[García is] throwing and ramping up,” Hinch said. “I think he’s most likely slated to stay in Lakeland [Fla.] and get sort of a normal Spring Training, or at least the first part of it, because there’s not a lot of games at the [alternate training] site until closer to the mid-month of April.”
• According to Tigers game notes, Detroit's seven walks during its eight-run eighth inning of Saturday’s 9-8 comeback win against the Phillies marked the most walks in a Spring Training inning by a Major League team since the Rangers on March 3, 2008. It also marked the first seven-walk inning in a Grapefruit League game since at least 2006.