Detroit will still have six starting pitchers slated to pitch this week, but Tarik Skubal’s scheduled outing will come in relief. It’s a way for the Tigers to bring Turnbull back from the injured list and into his rightful rotation spot while watching Skubal’s innings totals as the Tigers ramp up from last year’s 60-game schedule to their full 162-game slate this year.
“Quite honestly, it has nothing to do with performance or health,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s a long-term view and a long-term plan for trying to get these guys through the season. We targeted this time when we went to a modified six-man rotation. We knew we would have this at some point, and we’ll probably do it a couple times. And we’ll go to a full six-man rotation at some point.”
Skubal will pitch as part of a “modified tandem,” according to Hinch. Essentially, he’ll be part of a piggyback start, though Hinch isn’t saying which day the left-hander will pitch just yet. Given that Turnbull is starting on what would have been Skubal’s turn in the rotation, as well as the fact that Turnbull hasn’t been stretched beyond five innings in what amounted to an abbreviated rehab assignment at the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio, Skubal could potentially follow Turnbull.
Skubal has allowed nine earned runs on 11 hits in 13 1/3 innings over three starts, walking nine and striking out 12 while struggling to go deep into starts with high pitch counts despite exhibiting swing-and-miss stuff. More pertinent to his current situation, he pitched just 32 innings over seven starts and a relief appearance for Detroit last year, and had no Minor League season due to the pandemic.
The Tigers have talked about watching Skubal’s (and Casey Mize’s) innings ramp up since before Spring Training. Much of that discussion centered on using a six-man rotation. One reason against doing that now was the potential impact of too many days between starts for Detroit’s other starters.
This is a compromise version of that. Expect something similar for Mize as the season goes on.
“Taking Skubal and making him a tandem starter for a couple times made sense to us,” Hinch said. “We’re still going to get the rest for the other starters. We’re still going to get to ramp up Turnbull in the big leagues with a start or two that allows him to maybe ease his workload into the big leagues when the intensity increases. Throw all of that in the mixture and we felt like this was the best chance for the next 5-10 days on the pitching staff and still keep guys going. It was kind of win-win across the board for us.”
Turnbull opened the season on the injured list due to health and safety protocols. He had to isolate away from the team in the final stretch of Spring Training.
Tigers starters could still get extra rest if they have a rainout or snow-related postponement next week, but Hinch said the weather forecast for Tuesday night and Wednesday didn’t factor into their planning.
“The only one that let me know about the weather forecast was Turnbull,” Hinch said. “His welcome back is right around the Opening Day type weather that we had. He texted me the weather report.”
Tigers sticking with 14-man pitching staff
The Tigers will have to make a pair of roster moves when Turnbull returns Wednesday — one for their 26-man active roster, the other for their 40-man roster. Since Turnbull’s IL stint was for a non-baseball reason, he hasn’t counted against the 40-man roster.
As far as the 26-man roster, Hinch expects to stay with a 14-man staff. That would mean a pitcher-for-pitcher move to make room for Turnbull.
Happy birthday, Miggy
While Miguel Cabrera rehabs his left biceps strain in hopes of returning from the 10-day injured list as soon as next week, the former AL MVP and Triple Crown winner celebrated his 38th birthday Sunday.
Whenever he returns, he’ll be the first Tiger to play at age 38 or older since Victor Martinez finished out his final season in 2018 at age 40.