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Turner impresses against former club

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jacob Turner, who has not been particularly impressive in Spring Training in recent years, strengthened his grip on a spot in the Marlins' regular season starting rotation Sunday with his best performance yet this year.

"He pitched great," said Marlins' manager Mike Redmond after Turner turned in a convincing six-inning, three-hit, five-strikeout effort en route to an eventual 8-4 victory over the Tigers. "He was ahead in the count to almost every hitter. That's what I want to see. And he finished great."

"I feel like I'm ready," declared Turner, who was backed by home runs from Jeff Mathis and Giancarlo Stanton -- the latter a giant two-run blast to straightaway center field.

"I feel like I could definitely go out there and go six or seven innings. This was something to build on."

Turner, making his fifth start of the spring, retired the first 11 Tigers he faced, striking out three, before walking slugger Miguel Cabrera with two gone in the fourth.

The Tigers got their first hits off Turner in the bottom of the fifth on back-to-back singles by Austin Jackson and Alex Avila and scored their first run on an error by third baseman Casey McGehee.

"I got into a little rut in the fifth inning," Turner admitted. "I would have liked things to have gone a little smoother there."

Returning to the Tigers' Joker Marchant Stadium, where the 6-foot-5 right-hander was once viewed as a rising young star, Turner admitted he felt some added motivation.

"I don't know if it was because I was here, so much as the fact that they've got such a good lineup," he said. "Top to bottom, they're one of the best three or four lineups in baseball.

"As a competitor, that makes you want to pitch against them. That gives you a little more motivation. You've got to bring your A-game."

Turner who is projected to be the Marlins' No. 4 starter, is out of options and the Marlins risk losing him if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster. The 22-year-old right-hander has been the subject of trade talk this spring. However, the Marlins have denied they are shopping Turner, or anyone else, despite their surplus of pitchers.

Turner was the Tigers' first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. He was traded to Miami in 2012 for second baseman Omar Infante and pitcher Anibal Sanchez.

Turner has a 2-1 record and a 2.79 ERA over 19 1/3 innings this spring. That is far better than the 0-3 record and 9.69 ERA he posted a year ago before being sent down to Triple-A New Orleans.

Last season, Turner went 3-8 with a 3.74 ERA with the Marlins. He struck out 77 batters in 20 starts, and walked 55.

"When we brought him up last year he had some really good starts and some OK starts," Redmond said.

"I learned a lot about myself last year as a pitcher," Turner said. "Sometimes you need to be terrible a little bit to really learn what you need to do to be successful."

Jim Hawkins is a contributor to
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