21 June 2012
As expected, Jacob Turner was recalled from the minor leagues following Wednesday night’s loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. He will be effectively taking the place of Drew Smyly, who has been on the disabled list with a blister on his throwing hand since June 11. Smyly isn’t eligible to come off the DL until next Tuesday, but his finger is apparently feeling much better, so he’ll be making a rehab start today in Toledo to prepare for his return to the big leagues. Luke Putkonen was sent back to the minor leagues to make room on the active roster for Turner.
Turner, at just 21 years old, was the consensus number one prospect in the Tigers’ organization coming in to the year, and he was in the running to make the team as the fifth starting pitcher out of camp until some shoulder soreness limited his spring action. So instead of joining the Detroit Tigers in April, he became a member of the Lakeland Flying Tigers for four starts to work his arm into shape against A-ball competition before resuming his role in the AAA rotation.His numbers look solid this year in the minor leagues, but he hasn’t necessarily been dominating. For his time in Toledo, he’s put up a 3.43 ERA in 42 innings of work, but the strikeout numbers have been down from where they’ve been the past couple of years. Last year, he struck out 7.6 batters per nine innings between Erie (AA) and Toledo (AAA), but that rate has dropped to 5.8 per nine innings this season. There are probably a number of factors at work here: it’s a (relatively) small sample size and it probably took a bit to adjust from shoulder soreness to A-ball to AAA-ball. His last outing was excellent though; he threw six innings with six strikeouts, four hits, two walks, and only a single earned run.
Turner made three starts for the Tigers last season. He took the loss in his major league debut against the Los Angeles Angels on July 30, but that was easily his best outing of the three (5.1 IP, 6K, 3 BB, 3 H, 2 ER). His next two starts came in September, and perhaps he was a bit worn down (he’s only made three September appearances as a professional, and two were in a big league uniform) because his lines weren’t pretty. In only 7.1 combined innings, he allowed 10 earned runs, struck out only two batters, and gave up three long balls. The home runs are really the most concerning there, but that’s something he hasn’t struggled with in the minor leagues at all.
This is, in all likelihood, a one game affair for Turner. It might be a different story if he was shredding AAA hitters, or if Drew Smyly was struggling, but there’s no reason to prevent him from continuing to develop in the minor leagues. And with the injury situation in Detroit, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that he’ll be optioned back to Toledo following the game to make room for another fresh body.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.