Detroit Tigers’ Spencer Turnbull away due to COVID protocol; Michael Fulmer to bullpen?

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Detroit Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull, in the conversation for the Opening Day starter, has left the team’s spring training facility and entered quarantine because of COVID-19 protocols.

“He’s unavailable at this point,” manager AJ Hinch said Friday. “He’s not at the facility today, and he won’t be here for the coming days. By no wrongdoing of his own, either. He didn’t break a protocol or anything like that.

“We’re adhering to the protocols put in front of us, and he can’t come to the complex right now.”

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Hinch didn’t give further information, but he mentioned Turnbull is not allowed to enter the team’s complex — including the backfields — at this point. He would not share when he expects the right-hander to return.

This means it’s unlikely Turnbull is throwing, a concern considering he needs to build up his innings for the start of the season. Initially, the 28-year-old seemed in the conversation for starting in the opening series against the Indians.

What Turnbull’s absence means for the starting rotation to begin the season remains unclear.

“We’re not sure,” Hinch said. “We’re going to have to navigate that on a day-to-day basis.”

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Hinch wants to build pitchers up to four or five innings — at a maximum of roughly 70-80 pitches — before breaking for camp. Nobody will pitch six innings. “You don’t have to run a marathon in your training to be able to run a marathon,” Hinch said. “The same goes for pitchers.”

This spring, Turnbull has pitched nine innings across three starts. He has nine strikeouts and four walks, with five runs allowed. He went four innings on Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles, allowing one run with four strikeouts.

Hinch wouldn’t rule out an Opening Day start for Turnbull but didn’t shy away from sharing his worry about keeping players healthy, especially down the stretch. The Tigers depart from Lakeland on March 30.

“I’m concerned anytime our guys aren’t in camp and are going to miss a little bit of time,” Hinch said. “It’s concerning, but it’s reality. We’re trying to have a safe spring training and keep our guys in camp.”

Earlier this spring, infielder Zack Short and right-handed reliever Bryan Garcia each missed about a week of in-game action for similar COVID-19 reasons. Neither of them broke the rules but needed to quarantine.

Bullpen reps for Fulmer

When the Tigers face the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater on Sunday, right-handed prospect Matt Manning will start instead of veteran righty Michael Fulmer.

The reason: Hinch wants to give “a different look” to Fulmer, who spent the entire 2020 season rehabbing from Tommy Johns surgery at the major-league level because the minors were canceled. He didn’t pitch beyond three innings.

This spring, the 28-year-old has six innings across three starts, allowing 10 runs on 10 hits and five walks, with three strikeouts. Also, he has hit two batters.

“To do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result is the definition of insanity,” Hinch said. “For us to get him kickstarted, maybe take (away) the burden of being the starting pitcher that day.”

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Fulmer made all 10 of his starts last season, but he finished with an 8.78 ERA, 12 walks and 20 strikeouts in his 27⅔ innings. He allowed 27 earned runs and eight home runs.

“It was unfair to him to have to try to compete at this level while rehabbing a significant injury,” Hinch said. … “It also gives us a chance to give Manning a start, which is an advantage for him and for us. Kind of all came together as a collaborative group that we think it might be best for (Fulmer), at least this outing.”

Hinch won’t rule out Fulmer moving to the bullpen in 2021.

“I’m not married to either outcome,” Hinch said, “but we’re hoping it gives him less of a burden to have a spring training outing.”

What Goodrum likes from Baddoo

Outfielder Akil Baddoo is 9-for-23 (.391) with three home runs and seven RBIs this spring. He had eight walks compared to nine strikeouts and has displayed maturity on the bases.

If the Rule 5 draft pick from the Minnesota Twins stays on the active roster for the entire season, the Tigers can keep him. If not, he must be offered back to the Twins.

“He’s handling it well,” Niko Goodrum, a member of the Twins’ system from 2010-17, said Friday. “Playing the outfield good, running the bases good, stealing bags, hitting the ball good. He’s showing the power and hit tool. It’s going good for him.

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“He’s locked in. He’s getting his work in the gym and taking care of his body, taking care of his arm. He’s doing the right things. He’s preparing well, so I just hope he can stay on that track. Stay focused so he can produce day in and day out when he gets his opportunity this season.”

This offseason, Goodrum and Baddoo — both living near Atlanta — worked out together at the same training facility. Also, Baddoo has traveled to Goodrum’s batting cage and gym in his garage. They played video games together, too.

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Despite Goodrum’s offensive struggles, a product of swinging and missing too much as a switch-hitting lefty against right-handed pitchers, the 29-year-old shared advice with the 22-year-old Baddoo.

He wanted to prepare him for camp.

“I just gave him some things to look for and prepare for with pitching,” Goodrum said. “The approach and confidence that he needs to have and taking advantage of the opportunities. … Great athlete, great work ethic. Everyone’s really loving what they see.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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