When a 'mistake' works like gold: Spencer Turnbull's cutter continues to baffle

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull throws against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

Detroit — The irony didn’t escape Spencer Turnbull. His most effective pitch so far this season has been, in a manner of speaking, a mistake.

Hitters are 0-for-18 with 12 strikeouts against Turnbull’s cutter in his four starts.

“It’s supposed to be a slider,” he said, with a sheepish grin. “Most days they call it a cutter.”

The thing about the pitch is, it’s supposed to have some depth to it, some sinking action. He throws it typically between 87 and 88 mph and uses it as his primary off-speed pitch. So far this season, it’s been showing a late and sharp horizontal break.

Which is puzzling to Turnbull but giving hitters fits.

“Yeah, it’s working for me right now,” Turnbull said. “But I would prefer it to have more depth. It’s a little flat. But it’s been working so I will keep throwing it.”

More: Frustration, injuries, hitting woes piling up as Tigers drop 5th straight

It was his weapon of choice in six strong innings against the Pirates on Wednesday night. He threw 29 of them and got six outs, seven swings and misses and two called strikes with it. Four of his six strikeouts came off the cutter.

“It’s definitely my better off-speed pitch at the moment,” Turnbull said. “I am happy to have it.”

His sinker was good, too. He got eight of his nine ground ball outs with it.

More: Tigers' Matt Moore will miss the rest of season after knee surgery

“I got out of whack a little bit in the middle there and I was able to figure it back out,” said Turnbull, who allowed just one unearned run in his six innings. “That’s what I was most pleased with.”

He left the game with a 2-1 lead, nine outs away from his first big-league win. But the Pirates spoiled it, scoring two runs late against the Tigers’ bullpen.

“It’ll happen when it happens,” Turnbull said. “I’m not stressing about that…The level of disappointment is more that the team didn’t win. It would be cool to get my first win, but I don’t really care, as long as the team wins.”


Twitter: @cmccosky