The Detroit Tigers’ decision to start Jacob Turner in the series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals is exciting, as he has one of the most exciting young arms in baseball, but their decision to throw him out there could have other motives besides just seeing one of their top prospects.
Turner had a short stint with the team last season and showed off a live fastball, some promise with a few breaking pitches and ultimately the makings of a pitcher who can succeed in the majors. He was embattled in the comeptition for the team’s final roster spot in Spring Training and looked like he might make a late push, for it if it weren’t for a “dead arm period.” Since returning from injury, though, Turner has turned in some impressive starts at AAA and looks like he could be making major steps towards finding himself on a major league roster.
Of course, the question is, whose roster will he be on?
Many like to think Turner is untouchable with this team, but when you look at the current pitching rotation, it is hard to see where exactly he will fit in. With Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello all under team control for the next several years, it leaves only one rotation spot open and the Tigers seem like they want to keep a lefty there. As of right now, they have Drew Smyly slotted into the final spot and he has faired alright, considering he is a rookie with only one year of pro baseball experience. When you look at the rotation that way, suddenly it looks like Turner may be caught in a numbers game for years to come.
Many are quick to say, well there are guys who aren’t safe in that rotation, like Porcello. The truth is, the Tigers see something in him and like what he brings to the rotation. He has succeeded in big spots too, like Game 163 a few years ago and the playoffs last year, even if he can be wildly inconsistent. He isn’t going anywhere, so lets squash that posibility right now. The interseting one is Smyly though, his spot could be in jeopardy, but it is clear the Tigers like having a lefty, as they originally tried out Phil Coke as a starter last year, have Smyly this year and called up Casey Crosby when there was an opening in the rotation in the last few months. Knowing the team’s history with trying to find a lefty starter, it would seem Smyly is probably safe.
Of course, a stacked pitching rotation alone doesn’t mean a spot start by a rookie is code for the team being willing to deal him. What does make the circumstances interesting is General Manager Dave Dombrowski’s recent comments about how the team wants to acquire a right-handed bat. His desire to acquire one, and the timing of his comments, is code that the Tigers are open for business. If Dave D. hopes to get any kind of hitter worth anything, you have to imagine Turner will need to be included in the package.
Now we suddenly have a situation where the Tigers need to make a deal and have a rotation Turner doesn’t look like he will break into anytime soon. Let us add one more question into the pot to complete the prognostication of whether Tursday’s start is a show case.
Why isn’t the team having Fister pitch and, as a result, just shuffle the rotation with them ust having a day off this past Monday?
It was announced Turner would start on Sunday and the team didn’t play the first game of their series with the St. Louis Cardinals until Tuesday. The single day break would have given the team the opportunity to essentially skip Smyly’s start while he is on a rehab assignment in Toledo and just resume with their regularly scheduled programming when he came off the DL. Instead, they opted to call up a prospect who is on fire in the minors, is highly touted and is in demand.
Now, all I am doing here is putting the pieces together, sure maybe he isn’t being showcased, but if there have ever been circumstances that would lead one to believe that is exactly what Thursday is, these would be them.
Maybe Turner is just plugging a hole in a pitching staff that has fought injuries for most of the season, but there is definitely a shot the team is showing him off to the rest of the league. Now, if he is electric on Thursday and strings together some nice starts, maybe the Tigers backup off and offer up a guy like Smyly or Porcello, but the chances are Turner will look a lot like the pitcher they saw last year with some improvements.
Everyone loves a good consipracy, but unlike most of them, there seems to be something there with this one. It could be nothing, but it could also be Chance Ruffin from last year all over again. Thursday could be a big step in determining what kind of pitcher Turner is going to be from here on out, but it could also determine what this Tigers team is going to look like come September.