Dandy debut: Tigers rookie Turnbull makes a powerful first impression

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Detroit Tigers' Spencer Turnbull throws out Cleveland Indians' Jason Kipnis at first base during the seventh inning on Friday.

Cleveland — When Tigers rookie Spencer Turnbull came back into the dugout after his impressive big-league debut in Friday night's 5-4 win at Progressive Field, veteran Jordan Zimmermann asked him if he was nervous.

He told him he most assuredly was nervous.

“Really?” Zimmermann said. “You didn’t look nervous.”

That’s when Turnbull raised up his right hand, which was shaking uncontrollably.

“I didn’t realize I was shaking that bad,” said Turnbull, the Tigers second-round pick out of Alabama in 2014. “I was pretty nervous before my first start in Triple-A, but there were like four times as many people here tonight.

“This was the most nervous I’ve been by far.”

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Adding to his anxiety, the Tigers had just scored twice to break a 2-2 tie in the top of the seventh. Turnbull, who will make his first big-league start in five days, was tasked with facing the Nos. 8-9-1 hitters in the potent Indians lineup.

“My only thought in the bullpen was, just make sure I was as ready as I can be,” Turnbull said. “I knew I was going to be nervous. I just wanted to make sure I kept my breathing as slow as possible when I took the mound.

“I took one long look around, took a deep breath and just tried to throw it right down the middle.”

With a fastball that was ringing in at 95-96 mph, Turnbull struck out Yan Gomes and got ground outs from Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor.


“Man, does the ball come out of his hand good,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That was fun. We’ve always said, this guy has some of the best stuff in this organization.”

Turnbull threw 11 pitches — six two-seam fastballs that ranged in velocity from 90 to 96 mph. He threw four four-seam fastballs (95-96) and one slider.

“People have been telling me that (his stuff plays at this level),” Turnbull said. “But it’s one of those things you hear and you try as much as you can to believe it. But until you actually do it, you still have some small doubts.

“You try not to listen to any of those voices. If you hear a doubt in your head, just try to push it away. Being out there and doing it, it’s different than just thinking about it — for sure.”