Detroit Tigers to activate Spencer Turnbull and start him vs. Pirates. Here’s the plan

Detroit Free Press
Dana Gauruder |  Special to Detroit Free Press

The return of Spencer Turnbull will result in Tarik Skubal coming out of the bullpen for a short time. Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch considers it a modified six-man rotation.

Turnbull will make his season debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday. He has been on the COVID-19 injured list for one month. Michael Fulmer will start the opener of the three-game home series Tuesday, with Jose Urena getting the nod Thursday.

Skubal is 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA in three starts. After a solid first outing against Cleveland, he gave up six runs – including three homers in a four-inning stint against Cleveland on April 10.

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He pitched the opener of the four-game series in Oakland on Thursday. The 24-year-old left-hander gave up only one earned run on two hits in four innings but issued four walks while throwing 88 pitches.

“It has nothing to do with performance or health,” Hinch said before Sunday’s game in Oakland. “It’s a long-term view and a long-term plan for trying to get these guys through the season. It’s a plan, not a reaction to anything.”

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Skubal will pitch in the Pirates series, mostly likely in relief of Turnbull, though Hinch wouldn’t reveal his plan.

“We don’t think (Turnbull) is going to step right in and go six, seven, eight innings,” Hinch said. “That factored in.”

Skubal will have 1-3 scheduled relief appearances before his next start. He, like Turnbull, threw a bullpen session Sunday.

“He’s a starter and he’s going to have a scheduled outing,” Hinch said of Skubal. “He’s throwing his pen today like he normally would for a scheduled start. I still have six guys that are going to be in that starter column.”

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Casey Mize, and perhaps others in the rotation, will have a similar stretch where they’ll make scheduled bullpen appearances.

“There are going to be a couple of instances where we’re going to back off of our starters,” Hinch said.

Turnbull doesn’t currently count against the 40-man roster, so the Tigers will have to make a roster move to activate him. He pitched 4⅓ innings against Cincinnati’s alternate site squad in Toledo on Thursday.

Turnbull started 11 games last season for the Tigers, going 4-4 with a 3.97 ERA.

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