DETROIT — No one knows if Jacob Turner will make another start for the Detroit Tigers this season, but one question has been answered.
Turner is much more ready to start at this level than he was a year ago.
The Tigers had Turner make three spot starts last season and he went 0-1 with an 8.53 ERA against the Los Angeles Angels, the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles.
Although he didn’t get the win Thursday against his hometown St. Louis Cardinals, Turner acquitted himself nicely. In five innings, he allowed one run on four hits while walking five (one intentionally) and striking out three. Of his 94 pitches, 53 were for strikes.
“He’s much improved from the last time I saw him, particularly at the big-league level,” manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s worked on getting the ball, delivering the ball quicker to the plate, and he’s a bright kid.
“He knows where he’s going to be at some point in his career. He worked on those things. I thought he was much improved. Much better than the last time I saw him.”
Quintin Berry, who had the walk-off RBI single to give the Tigers a 2-1, 10-inning victory, was impressed with his former Toledo Mud Hens teammate who got the no-decision.
“He was amazing,” Berry said. “He came out, went right after them, pitched very well and that’s all we could ask. He just gave us a chance the whole way.”
Catcher Alex Avila, just activated off the disabled list, said the way Turner was able to handle a pretty difficult Cardinals lineup was telling.
“He pitched really, really well today,” Avila said. “He did a great job mixing all of his pitches, really locating. There were a couple times where you could tell he lost his command a little bit but he was able to make the right adjustments.”
With all that said, Leyland said how Turner pitched might not matter when it comes to if he’ll make another start.
“You’ve got (Drew) Smyly pitching three innings down there (Toledo) today,” Leyland said. “You just have to make a decision, because we are short in the bullpen. He did well enough, but the circumstances may or may not dictate that.”
Fortunately for Leyland, Turner is not focused on any of that.
“I’m going to go out there and pitch and do everything I can do to show them what I can give them every time I go out,” Turner said. “As far as deserving a spot or not, that’s really not something I worry about.”
The Tigers were worried about Turner in spring training when they had to shut him down with a dead arm. It took a while for him to get back to full health, but since then, he’s done well for the Mud Hens. He’s worked on the things that hurt him in those spot starts last season.
“I think just little things in my game, throwing first-pitch strikes, throwing all my pitches for strikes, holding runners on base, varying my time to the plate, stuff like that,” Turner said.
For Turner, despite the high ERA last year, it was good for him to come up to the big leagues and get his feet wet.
“There’s a little bit more of a comfort factor, being that I was up here a little bit before,” Turner said. “You just know the surroundings a little bit more, you know the team a little bit better and that always helps.”
Smyly, who is recovering from a blood blister, has pitched pretty well so far, going 2-2 with a 3.96 ERA. His effectiveness has not been as good of late as it was at the beginning of the season. But he is a left-handed starter, something the Tigers would not have if Turner (0-0, 1.80) entered the rotation.
For now, it’s a good problem to have in that it seems they have two young pitchers capable of filling that fifth starter role.