JUPITER, Fla. — To say Marlins right-hander Jacob Turner’s 2013 spring training wielded disastrous results would be an understatement.
Turner went 0-3 with a 9.69 ERA in four starts, surrendering 14 runs on 18 hits in 13 innings. He struck out just five batters and walked nine while hitting one. Instead of making the Opening Day roster, Turner started the season in Triple-A New Orleans.
The 22-year-old, expected to be the fourth arm in this year’s rotation, began this spring on a better note in Monday afternoon’s 4-0 loss to the Houston Astros at Roger Dean Stadium.
In two innings of work, Turner threw 40 pitches (28 strikes) and allowed just a solo home run to Marc Krauss in the first. He struck out two batters and walked another.
Robbie Grossman grounded out to second and Jonathan Villar struck out looking prior to Krauss’ home run to right, which came on the ninth pitch of the at-bat. Former Marlin Matt Dominguez flied out to right to end the frame.
Casey McGehee helped Turner escape a jam in the second with a diving stop at third on Gregorio Petit’s sharp grounder.
Brett Wallace had singled to lead off the inning and George Springer walked. On J.D. Martinez’s flyout to center, both players advanced a base. Max Stassi struck out swinging before McGehee’s multi-run saving play.
"He’s one of those guys — no telling how good this guy can be," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "He has the ability to make guys swing and miss. What I saw was a tighter breaking ball today than I’ve seen in the past. You just look at the crispness of the way the ball was coming out of his hand, and it looked good."
While fastball command was his primary goal in his first spring start, Turner mixed in a couple of sliders with runners on base.
This season, Turner hopes to throw his changeup more consistently, particularly to left-handed hitters.
"It’s something I’ve been focusing on in my bullpens and playing catch," Turner said. "If I can make that a go-to pitch in any count, I think it’ll really help my sinker."
Anything to avoid repeating the negative aspects of last season.
After that disappointing spring, Turner went 3-4 with a 4.47 ERA in 10 starts with the Zephyrs. The Marlins would need his arm out of necessity with righties Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez and Alex Sanabia on the disabled list.
Recalled on May 31, Turner pitched seven scoreless innings for the victory over the New York Mets. Miami won four of his first six starts. But beginning July 19 in a 2-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, Turner dropped seven straight decisions to end 2013.
His first-half-second-half split was 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA compared with 0-7 with a 4.92 ERA. He particularly struggled in September in three starts, allowing 13 runs on 21 hits in 14 1/3 frames. Over 20 starts, Turner finished 3-8 with a 3.74 ERA.
"I looked at last season and took the high notes," Turner said. "I learned a lot about myself as a pitcher. I took those into this year and hoping to build upon those."
The ninth overall selection in the 2009 draft by the Detroit Tigers, Turner wants to validate his inclusion in the Anibal Sanchez trade of 2012.
Turner was expected to start 2013 in the majors after going 1-4 with a 3.38 ERA in seven starts following the deal. But his early struggles led to other plans.
Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez told Redmond before Monday’s game that Turner’s bullpen had been the best one he’d ever seen him throw.
"Just really like any other spring (you) go out there and get ready for the season," Turner said. "For me, personally, fastball command — everything builds off of that. I think that’s what Chuck preaches to all of us is being able to throw your fastball to both sides of the plate. If you can do that a lot of things will go your way."