Turnbull, Hall latest pitchers to join Tigers' rotation jam-up
Detroit — They can get in a manager's way, they can unsettle a clubhouse's rhythm, but auditioning new talent is a September ritual for big-league teams, the Tigers included.
Two more pitchers have been added to the unconstrained active roster — Spencer Turnbull and Matt Hall. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire is figuring out a new schedule that best works for Turnbull, a right-handed starter, and Hall, a left-handed curveball artist who can work as a starter or in the bullpen.
"They're both going to pitch," Gardenhire said. "But Turnbull, we are trying to get him a start or two, and then maybe piggy-back that with Hall.
"We're going to make it work out. Turnbull, we definitely want to see him start. Hall can go either way."
Turnbull is a former second-round Tigers pick from the University of Alabama. One of the lesser-known facts about Turnbull is that, in the minds of scouts, he might have one of the entire Tigers organization's best collection of pitches.
It's a power repertoire, with a four-seam fastball that can run mid-90s to 97, a two-seam sinker that can cruise at 93-plus, two breaking pitches, and a change-up. It's a legitimate five-pitch assembly with speed differentials of more than 20 mph.
Health has been Turnbull's problem. But a man who next week turns 26 has had a full 2018 season, including a splendid late-summer cameo at Triple-A Toledo, where he threw 13.1 innings, struck out 19, walked three, and allowed eight hits.
Hall is 25 and three years ago was a sixth-round pick from Missouri State. He has one of the highest spin-rates on his curveball of any pitcher in professional baseball, which is the main reason why this season he struck out 135 batters in 114.1 innings, with a 2.13 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.
His biggest improvement in 2018: fastball command, Hall said Thursday, as he spent his first day in a regular-season, big-league clubhouse. At the end of 2017, Tigers pitching coaches A.J. Sager and Willie Blair sat him down and said he needed to locate his fastball, which doesn't always crack 90, if he was to see the big leagues.
Hall improved this year, although 45 walks speaks to issues that can yet flare.
The Tigers will give each pitcher a shot at showing just how much work remains for pitchers, and for a team, already preparing for spring camp in 2019.
It is looks less and less as if Jose Iglesias will play another game in 2018 for the Tigers. And because he's in the last year of his contract, chances are slim he ever again will wear a Tigers uniform.
Iglesias on Tuesday was to fly to Philadelphia for a meeting with William Meyers, whose expertise on repairing abdominal muscles led to past surgery on such Tigers as Daniel Norris, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Magglio Ordonez.
The Tigers will be shopping for an everyday shortstop during the offseason, but it remains doubtful they and Iglesias will reunite as Detroit moves to youth and immediate short-term answers that aren't expected to include Iglesias.
Gardenhire acknowledged Tuesday that he has a problem.
Too many outfielders, and too few spots.
Christin Stewart arrived this week with front-office orders to play him as the Tigers decide if a left-handed batter with big home-run potential might be ready for regular work as early as Opening Day of next season.
Nick Castellanos is still the main man in right field, while JaCoby Jones and Victor Reyes are young talents Gardenhire needs to keep busy.
That leaves Mikie Mahtook, who also factors into potential 2019 plans.
"I'm trying to figure out how to get all of them the right amount of playing time," Gardenhire said. "But it’s going to be harder if we play Stew every day, and that’s what our plan is.
"We have center field, and right field — and that’s Nick. Not too many options. I talked to Mikie. Reyes is always good (about playing time). But I talked to Mikie and told him, ‘Just hang with me here. Let me get this thing rolling and figure out the best way to keep everybody swinging.’
"Mikie is going to have to play some center field. And we can take the days when Victor’s not playing and Casty can DH. But it’s not going to be easy.”
Astros vs. Tigers
First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit
RHP Gerrit Cole (13-5, 2.86), Astros: Good luck, Tigers. This is a Cy Young Award finalist, almost assuredly, who specializes in making hitters miserable. The full quiver — and it’s deadly.
LHP Daniel Norris (0-3, 5.47), Tigers: Looking stronger and more like the Norris who’s been waiting to be healthy and restored to regular, productive work. Could be a strong September finish for Norris.