Detroit Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull tossed a 38-pitch bullpen session in Lakeland, Florida, on Saturday and continues to check important boxes in his recovery from a right forearm strain, which landed him on the 10-day injured list June 5.
Next, Turnbull will face batters for the first time since sustaining his injury June 4 against the Chicago White Sox.
“All things checked out great,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Sunday. “He’ll have the recovery days in between. I think the next step for him is going to be a live BP, hopefully sometime soon. … He’s thrown a couple times off the mound and reports no problems. Things are progressing nicely.”
Because of Turnbull’s progress, the Tigers are beginning to discuss where to send him for his first rehab assignment. The inconsistent weather in Lakeland — featuring heavy rainfall and scattered thunderstorms — presents a challenge.
Turnbull could try to squeeze in a shortened start for Low-A Lakeland, but he runs the risk of a rain delay or postponement. Another option is to jump to Triple-A Toledo for his first outing.
“For pitchers, it’s just a matter of where their first outing is,” Hinch said. “Sometimes it’s a little bit easier to do it in the place they’re rehabbing, down in Lakeland, and just have that first initial time against competition be there and then move them up.
“It’s case-by-case. I’m not a weatherman. I haven’t even looked at it, but I know we’re trying to figure out where these three- and four-inning stints are going to be for Spencer.”
The fact the Tigers are discussing Turnbull’s return to games is a positive sign. He won’t be back with the Tigers until after the All-Star break. Through nine starts, the 28-year-old has a 2.88 ERA, 12 walks and 44 strikeouts over 50 innings.
Since third baseman Jeimer Candelario returned from the bereavement list, he is hitting .228 in 16 games. But he has 12 walks compared to 11 strikeouts — giving him a .362 on-base percentage during this span.
Candelario’s lack of home runs stands out. That’s because he hasn’t homered since May 18 in Seattle, and boasts four home runs across 73 games in 2021.
“His swing is not necessarily built for power,” Hinch said. “But he can impact the ball. When he hits it to the right part of the ballpark, he can hit a homer. I would like him to just be the best version of himself. I think that’s the key, whatever that is and however much power that is, or whether he’s an on-base machine and spraying singles everywhere. That’s OK, too. We just want the best version of him every day.”
To go with his .258 batting average, Candelario has a team-high 16 doubles and 22 RBIs. The 27-year-old hit 19 homers in 2018 (144 games), eight in 2019 (94 games) and seven in his breakthrough 2020 campaign (52 games).
Mazara’s manner reflects team
For the fourth game in a row, outfielder Nomar Mazara wasn’t included in the starting lineup. He didn’t start once in the three-game series with the White Sox at Comerica Park.
“He’s been great,” Hinch said. “Nomar has always had a good attitude.”
Mazara is hitting .213 with three home runs, 17 RBIs, 15 walks and 40 strikeouts in 45 games. He carries a .283 on-base percentage and has lost out on playing time to less-experienced outfielders Akil Baddoo, Daz Cameron and Eric Haase.
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Hinch said Mazara’s positivity reflects everyone in the clubhouse.
“We don’t have a bad attitude in that room,” Hinch said. “We have a tremendous group of guys that is accepting the culture we’re trying to create and the winning mindset that we’re trying to instill. It’s important for us on a day-to-day balance that, whether it’s not being in the lineup, not performing, not getting an opportunity versus bringing your best self to work every day and doing whatever is asked of you.”
The Tigers signed Mazara to a one-year, $1.75 million contract in February 2021.
Goodrum starts rehab assignment
Utility player Niko Goodrum, who primarily occupied shortstop before his injury, began his rehab assignment Saturday for Triple-A Toledo. He finished 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against the Columbus Clippers.
He will play the infield Sunday for the Mud Hens.
“We’ll see where he’s at while were on the road trip,” Hinch said. “He’ll get a couple more games playing in the outfield and the infield, and (we’ll) make an assessment if he’s going to join us some time on the road trip.”
Goodrum went to the 10-day injured list June 19 with a left finger tendon injury. He is hitting .216 with five homers, 17 RBIs, 20 walks and 80 strikeouts in 59 MLB games this season — along with 12 stolen bases.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.