DETROIT -- The first inning from Spencer Turnbull in his first Major League start looked like the dominant inning of relief the big right-hander threw in his big league debut last week. The next three innings turned out to be a struggle.These are the situations manager Ron Gardenhire and coaches
DETROIT -- The first inning from Spencer Turnbull in his first Major League start looked like the dominant inning of relief the big right-hander threw in his big league debut last week. The next three innings turned out to be a struggle.
These are the situations manager Ron Gardenhire and coaches want to see down the stretch as they try to figure out which young players in their system fit for next season, including whether Turnbull can stick as a big league starter or might fit better in relief. While Detroit took an 8-2 loss to Minnesota at Comerica Park to finish off a series sweep, the Tigers learned a little more about Turnbull, good and bad.
"You can take him out after they score a couple runs, but he's gotta pitch," Gardenhire said. "We want him to get some innings in and learn. We want to see him. He's got a great arm. His ball has great movement. He has to understand that and not try to overcook it. He's good enough."
Turnbull (0-1), Detroit's second-round pick in 2014, earned a September call-up with a solid 2018 season in the Minors that was better than his 5-8 record, including 133 strikeouts over 119 1/3 innings. His opening inning Wednesday showed the mid-90s fastball and mix that made him effective at Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, as he retired the side in order, culminating with a 96-mph fastball for a called third strike on Jake Cave.
From there, however, the Twins adjusted. Just as important, they didn't chase, fouling off two-strike pitches to stay alive for three singles and a walk to begin a four-run second inning. A balk on a 1-2 pitch to Willians Astudillo not only denied Turnbull a much-needed strikeout, it advanced baserunners for back-to-back run-scoring groundouts.
For a young pitcher who admitted he was shaking after his Major League debut, protecting a late-inning in Cleveland, it was another test of nerves. For a prospect who struck out 11 batters in his Triple-A debut for the Mud Hens on Aug. 27, it was a welcome to the next level.
"First inning felt really good," Turnbull said. "Felt like I was executing, stuff felt really good. Came back out for the second and still felt good. I just got behind, left a pitch up, gave up a hit, then walked the next guy, and then I think things started to speed up a little bit. Didn't feel like I was panicking or anything, just wasn't executing my pitches quite as well and gave up a few more hits, a lot of foul balls. It kind of just snowballed on me a little bit."
With Astudillo's strikeout nullified, Turnbull didn't record a swinging strike until his 65th pitch of the afternoon, a 1-1 slider to Christopher Austin with one out in the fourth. Again, Austin worked the count full for a single, starting a string of three straight hits and two more runs.
Turnbull finished with six runs allowed on six hits over four innings, walking one and striking out two. He drew 17 called strikes, but Twins hitters fouled off 19 of his 81 pitches.
"It was a rough outing," Turnbull said. "I'm not worried about it. I'm sure I'll get better from it. I'm trusting myself more than I ever have. I know that I have the stuff. I know that I'm good [enough] to do it. It's just executing and not trying to do too much; just breathing, just calming down."
By contrast, the Tigers generated little against Twins "opener" Gabriel Moya, making his second start of the series, or "primary pitcher" Stephen Gonsalves (1-2), who tossed six scoreless innings on one hit for his first Major League win. Nicholas Castellanos' ninth-inning RBI double and Michael Mahtook's sacrifice fly put the Tigers on the board.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Twins had a 2-0 lead and runners at first and second with nobody out when Turnbull thought he had struck out Astudillo on a 1-2 pitch for the first out of the second inning. Instead, the balk call advanced the runners to second and third, and kept Astudillo alive for a run-scoring groundout. It also set up the next batter, Gregorio Petit, to plate another run with a groundout on an 0-2 pitch, essentially making the balk a two-run mistake.
"I was so focused on trying to execute pitches and get a guy out, I just rushed and didn't come set," Turnbull said.
Gardenhire's old team not only sent his current team to a series sweep, it sent Gardenhire's managerial record under .500 for the first time in his career. His record now stands at 1,129-1,130. Gardenhire posted a 1,068-1,039 mark over 14 seasons with the Twins, including 10 consecutive winning seasons to begin his tenure.
HE SAID IT
"Your guess is as good as mine. I don't know where it's going." -- Gardenhire, on the future of the bullpen start, which the Twins utilized twice in the series with Moya pitching the first inning ahead of a primary starter
The Tigers open their final home series of the season Thursday with a 7:10 p.m. ET game against the Royals at Comerica Park. Matthew Boyd (9-12, 4.08 ERA) will try to become the first Tigers pitcher to double-digit wins this season when he makes the start opposite Jorge Lopez (2-3, 4.64). Boyd is 6-3 with a 2.44 ERA at Comerica Park this year.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.