What Detroit Tigers’ Spencer Turnbull wishes he could’ve changed in poor outing

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull was caught off guard.

The plate discipline from the Chicago White Sox shocked him.

He needed 60 pitches to get through two grueling innings. He knew his command could’ve been better, but considered himself comfortable in every other aspect of Thursday’s 9-0 loss at Guaranteed Rate Field, the ninth consecutive defeat for the 9-14 Tigers.

Turnbull allowed three runs on two hits and four walks without a strikeout.

“The ball was coming out of my hand good, felt like it was moving alright,” Turnbull said. “Felt like the slider was biting pretty good, felt like it was biting better than last week. But maybe I was a little too focused on making it bite and not getting it in the zone early enough, so they were able to eliminate it. Felt like I threw some good changeups.”

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He wished Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire would have let him return for the third inning instead of bringing in left-hander Tyler Alexander from the bullpen. 

But Gardenhire was not pleased.

“What wasn’t he struggling with? That’d be a shorter answer,” Gardenhire said Thursday. “He was misfiring all over the place. He had no command of anything. He threw 60 pitches in two innings, just have to get him out of there.”

For subscribers: Casey Mize showed us something significant in his Tigers debut

Turnbull said he didn’t miss his spots terribly, noting that the White Sox weren’t swinging. And that was true, seeing as he managed just five whiffs in 60 pitches. He had six called strikes, so even when his opponents chose not to swing, he didn’t paint the corners — resulting in four walks.

“He couldn’t believe they would lay off those pitches,” Gardenhire said, “but there were 60 of them in two innings. That’s all I know. So we had to get him out. We’re not letting him throw an 80-pitch three innings. That’s happened too many times.”

Reflecting on his start, Turnbull wished he would’ve been more aggressive, rather than relying on the White Sox to chase outside of the zone.

[ How we graded Tigers right-hander Casey Mize in his MLB debut ]

In the first inning, he walked Yoan Moncada on four pitches and put a third-pitch fastball inside the zone to Jose Abreu for a double. He gave free passes to the next two batters — Eloy Jimenez and Edwin Encarnacion — to walk in a run and fall behind. He gave up two more runs on an RBI groundout to Nomar Mazara and RBI single to James McCann.

“They got a lot of good hitters,” Turnbull said. “Several of them are swinging the bat exceptionally well right now. I still felt like it was a good matchup for me. I wasn’t overly concerned about one hitter in particular, just upset I didn’t execute my pitches after walks.”

He labored again in the second inning, pegging Tim Anderson in the back and walking Moncada on seven pitches. While he didn’t give up a run, he needed 23 more pitches to get out of the frame, and Gardenhire had seen enough.

[ Making sense of Tarik Skubal’s rocky debut with Tigers ]

Turnbull’s outing was his worst this season after making impressive strides from a 2019 season where he registered a 3-17 record, 4.61 ERA and 1.436 WHIP. He tossed a seven-inning, one-run game Aug. 9 against the Pirates, but since then, he has allowed six runs in 6⅔ innings. 

“Pretty bad outing,” Turnbull said. “But tomorrow is a new day, getting back to work.”

Cabrera ‘not seeing it great’

In 23 games, designated hitter Miguel Cabrera is slashing .181/.274/.337 with one double, four home runs and 11 RBIs. He hasn’t produced an extra-base hit since Aug. 8 and went 2-for-14 in the four-game series with the White Sox.

As his power numbers continue to plummet, Gardenhire said he isn’t concerned. What he’s frustrated about, however, is not being able to score runs (nine in four games vs. Chicago) and starting pitchers only making it through two innings.

“Right now, it’s just one of those things when he’s not seeing it great,” Gardenhire said. “He’s hit some balls right on the button, right at people. I mean, hard as can be. I’ve said for a long time, try not to worry about that guy. He can hit, and he’s barrelling some balls up. … He’s fine. I’m not going to worry about him.”

Although Cabrera is healthy, Gardenhire won’t consider moving him to first base for a change in pace. He played 26 games at first base last season before transitioning to a full-time designated hitter role. 

“That puts him more at risk,” Gardenhire said. “I know Miggy. He’ll start to dive around and catch balls, and that’ll put him more at risk. Can’t do that with his legs. I’ve told him that.

“He likes to take ground balls over there, but if he were to dive, hit the ground and screw his knee up, then we really would be screwed.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content. 

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