Spencer Turnbull might have missed the Opening Day snowstorm in Detroit while dealing with what he confirmed Tuesday was COVID-19, but Mother Nature was kind enough to save a few flurries for his season debut on Wednesday against the Pirates.
“I checked the weather, and it was like [an] 80 percent chance of snow [and a] 28 degree low,” Turnbull said with a chuckle. “I was like, ‘Really, man? You want me to have the Opening Day treatment, get the blizzard in?’
“I would’ve been happy to pitch in whatever temperature it is; I’m just glad to be back.”
Tuesday marked the first time Turnbull spoke with media since he was placed on health and safety protocols March 21 in Lakeland, Fla. Manager A.J. Hinch emphasized at the time that the situation was no fault of Turnbull’s, something he reiterated Tuesday.
Under protocol rules, Turnbull was not allowed to return to the Tigers’ Spring Training complex until he completed isolation and cleared testing. The COVID-19 diagnosis made ramping up for the season a challenge, Turnbull acknowledged, adding that he lost around 10 pounds of muscle mass and a tick or two off his fastball velocity.
“COVID is definitely a weird virus,” he said. “I don’t really understand it, I don’t really know how it works, but it just does weird stuff to your body. I was never miserable … but I definitely had symptoms.”
Turnbull is expected to slide back into the rotation and work five or six innings — or about 75-85 pitches — on Wednesday. He had been scheduled for two starts at the team’s alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio. One was canceled due to weather, and Turnbull felt good after working 4 1/3 innings on Saturday.
“Do what I expect of myself, pitch at the highest level I can and don’t worry too much about results,” Turnbull said. “Just go out there, compete and have fun. Hopefully punch a bunch of tickets, strike some guys out, get some ground balls, get some innings up, win a ballgame, that’s the normal.”
Because the Tigers’ starter was on the injured list for a non-baseball reason, Turnbull hasn’t counted against the 40-man roster, so Detroit will need to make corresponding moves on the 26-man and 40-man. It’s likely the club will send out a pitcher to keep the staff at 14.
Rather than go with a true six-man rotation, Hinch confirmed Tarik Skubal will piggyback off Turnbull’s Wednesday start as a way to both keep an eye on the youngster’s innings count and allow Turnbull the opportunity to get his legs under him again.
**Cabrera adding activity
**Miguel Cabrera, who’s been on the 10-day injured list since April 10 with a mild left biceps strain, was slated to take batting practice on the field Tuesday. Though the activity was moved inside due to inclement weather that eventually postponed Tuesday’s contest, Hinch said the next step would be for Detroit to bring up a pitcher from the alternate training site to pitch live batting practice before a game at the end of the week to get the Tigers’ slugger some additional reps.
“We’ll [then] evaluate over the weekend if he’s good to go,” Hinch said.
Cabrera is available to be reactivated during the upcoming four-game weekend series at home against the Royals.
While the biceps soreness likely contributed to the American League Triple Crown Award winner’s 1-for-17 slump since April 4, the lack of severity of the injury came as a relief to Cabrera, who sustained a ruptured tendon in the same biceps in 2018, which required season-ending surgery.
The ol’ switcheroo
Keeping in line with Hinch’s versatility theme for 2021, Niko Goodrum shifted to shortstop and Willi Castro slid over to second base on Tuesday to give the infield a different look. Though the game was postponed due to snow in Detroit, it’s likely fans will see this configuration in the future as well.
“I want to take a look at that configuration and see what it looks like,” Hinch said. “I don’t know if I’m going to stay with it each time they play or if Willi bounces back and forth. … It’s not that big of a deal to Willi or our team, but if it makes us stronger up the middle with that particular duo, then great.”