An impressive Grapefruit League campaign has paid off for Tigers righthander Spencer Turnbull. Entering spring camp, he didn’t appear to have much of a prayer of starting the year in the major leagues, let alone locking up a rotation spot. However, Michael Fulmer’s elbow surgery and inconsistent showings from Daniel Norris left the door open, and Turnbull walked right through.
Anthony Fenech of The Detroit Free Press reported Monday afternoon that Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire and his coaches have selected Turnbull as the final starting pitcher in the rotation on Opening Day. He will join Matthew Boyd, Jordan Zimmermann, Tyson Ross, and Matt Moore, and will be the youngest man in the starting five at age 26.
In BYB’s 2019 prospect rankings, Turnbull was the 14th ranked player in the Tigers’ farm system. He was the club’s second round pick in the 2014 amateur draft out of the University of Alabama. After a few injury-plagued seasons that saw his stock fall to that of a solid relief candidate, Turnbull rebounded in 2017. Finally blessed with better shoulder health and consistent reps, he refined his command to more acceptable levels. In 2018, he progressed to Double-A Erie, where he improved his slider and overall strikeout numbers, impressing the Tigers coaching staff during his brief stint in the major leagues last September.
This spring, Turnbull posted a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings of work, with 15 strikeouts to just two walks.
The news leaves the status of Daniel Norris up in the air. MLive’s Evan Woodbery has Norris starting the year in the Tigers’ bullpen. The Tigers had always planned to take an extra man in the bullpen for their seven-game road trip to open the season. Beyond that, we’ll have to see if the Tigers keep him in the ‘pen, or whether he is moved to Triple-A Toledo to stretch out as a much needed starter who can plug the next hole in the rotation as the usual issues arise.