Chicago — Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull was scratched from his start at Triple-A Toledo Friday night.
“He’s been referencing a cracked toenail that’s limiting him, as far as pitching,” manager AJ Hinch said. “That’s the reason he’s not pitching tonight. He’s getting some treatment and we expect him to be on the mound and ready to go any given day.”
That seems improbable at this point. The relationship between Turnbull and the Tigers has deteriorated over the course of this season. Returning to the rotation after missing 20 months recovering from Tommy John surgery, Turnbull struggled through April and into May.
His ERA after seven starts was 7.26 and on May 6, the Tigers optioned him to Toledo. Subsequent to that, Turnbull informed the club that he’d been trying to pitch through soreness in his neck. Subsequent tests from an independent doctor revealed the neck was injured.
The Tigers rescinded the option, based on the results of those tests, and put him on the injured list.
But his rehab process did not go well performance-wise and the Tigers again optioned him to Toledo on Aug. 23. The start Friday was supposed to be his first since being optioned. But he couldn’t finish the fourth inning of his final rehab start, his performance impacted by the soreness in his foot, the big toe on his drive foot.
He’s five days short of reaching five years of big-league service time. Players with five years of service time can refuse a minor-league assignment.
Once a player is optioned, his service time clock stops.
Most likely Turnbull is again seeking independent medical counsel, this time on his foot. The Tigers may not be inclined to accept the outside medical counsel.
It could get to the point where the Tigers decide to place Turnbull on the restricted list, essentially an unpaid leave of absence, until the matter is resolved. If it gets to that point, most likely, Turnbull and his agent, Scott Boras, would commence a grievance process.
Turnbull is under team control through the end of the 2024 season.
“We are looking forward to him pitching and pitching better,” said Hinch, who only deals with the baseball aspect of this saga. “He can be a good pitcher.”