About the time Spencer Turnbull walked onto the mound in Durham and nearly got arrested

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Spencer Turnbull

New York – Manager Ron Gardenhire and his coaches were contemplating sending Spencer Turnbull home early Wednesday ahead of his start Thursday in the Tigers’ home opener.

With the getaway game starting at 4:05 p.m. here, and the 1:10 p.m. start time Thursday, it would have been normal practice to send Turnbull home early.

“But one of my coaches, I won’t mention his name (Steve Liddle), said, ‘He might get arrested for being on the mound at midnight again,’” Gardenhire said. “I said, ‘Good point.’”

Wait. What?

This is the best Spencer Turnbull story you will hear today, guaranteed.

“I didn’t get arrested,” Turnbull said. “There’s a picture of me with my hands behind my back, but I wasn’t actually arrested. There were two pictures. One, I was on the mound with my hands raised and the other I had my hands behind my back like I had handcuffs on.

“I didn’t have handcuffs on. I was just standing there trying to look unassuming.”

This was last September. Turnbull was pitching for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens in the International League playoffs against Durham. He was sent to Durham early ahead of his start in Game 3. Turnbull went to the stadium to watch Game 2 from Toledo on television.

“It was probably 10:30 p.m.,” he said. “It was dark. It was right after our game. I was out in left field. They have a bar-restaurant out there and I was sitting by myself. I wanted to watch the game and eat some food.”

After the game, he walked around the outside of the empty stadium, stepped over a short wall and walked out onto the field to get a feel for the mound he’d be pitching on the next day.

“I was just listening to some praise music, praying, getting my mind right, doing my visualization and stuff on the mound,” Turnbull said. “I’d never been in that stadium before and I was bored. Felt like a good idea at the time.

“I didn’t realize it was a felony.”

As he was walking out of the stadium, he was met by two female security officers, who had already phoned Durham police.

“They came over and said, ‘Can we talk about what just happened on the field?’” Turnbull said. “I said, ‘What are you talking about.’ They said they had me on video. Oh, OK.”

The security officers both laughed when Turnbull explained what he was doing, but the two police officers who responded weren’t initially amused.

“I told them the same thing and they didn’t believe me,” he said. “The one guy said, ‘You’re lying, they’re playing at Toledo tonight.’ I said, I know. They sent me out a day early. That’s what people do. One of the cops stayed with me and the other went to the car, got his phone and Googled me.

“He came back and shoved the phone in the other guy’s face and showed it to him. ‘He is the guy.’ They laughed and said, 'Remember us when you get to the big leagues.'”

Turnbull would be called up to the big leagues three days later. And on Thursday, he will be standing on the mound at Comerica Park, legally, starting the home opener in Detroit.

“You’ve got to love him,” Gardenhire said, still shaking his head over the story. “He’s definitely out there. But he’s got great stuff and I have no fear about starting him on Opening Day. None.”

Around the horn

According to Elias, the Tigers are the third team since 1900 to win four of their first seven games while scoring 12 runs or fewer. The other two teams: the 1913 Philadelphia A's and the 1971 New York Mets.

... The 11 total runs scored by both teams in the series ties the second-lowest total for a three-game series in the history of the current Yankees Stadium. A series with Toronto in 2017 netted 10 runs. 

... Matthew Boyd's 13 strikeouts was a Yankee Stadium record for a visiting pitcher.

... Tigers pitchers combined for 18 strikeouts, tying the club record for most in an nine-inning game -- the last time it happened was in 2013 against Atlanta.  

... Tigers pitchers struck out eight of nine Yankee hitters between the sixth and the ninth. Boyd fanned the last four batters he faced. Buck Farmer struck out the only two batters he faced and Joe Jimenez struck out two in the eighth.

On deck: Royals

Series: Three-game series at Comerica Park

First pitch: Thursday, Saturday-Sunday — 1:10 p.m.

TV/radio: Thursday, Saturday-Sunday — FSD/97.1 FM

Probables: Thursday — RHP Jakob Junis (1-0, 4.76) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (0-1, 5.40); Saturday — RHP Jorge Lopez (0-1, 7.20) vs. LHP Matt Moore (0-0, 0.00); Sunday — RHP Brad Keller (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Tyson Ross (1-0, 3.60).

Junis, Royals: Tiger-killer. He is 6-1 with a 3.12 ERA and a 1.0 WHIP in eight appearances against the Tigers. He has a 40-7 strikeout-to-walk rate. He likes Comerica Park, too. This will be his seventh appearance there, 4-1, 3.55 ERA.

Turnbull, Tigers: Late-inning hold situation in Cleveland, final game of 2018 in Milwaukee, first opening-week start in Toronto, and now Opening Day in Detroit, there has been no easing-in process for this young right-hander. Oddly, this will be just his second appearance at Comerica — he was touched for six runs in four innings in a loss to the Twins last September.

Twitter @cmccosky