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Positive results aside, Tigers' Spencer Turnbull still seeking more consistency

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. —  The fourth inning continues to be mildly vexing for Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull.

In his previous spring start, he thought he was done after three innings, only to be rushed back to the mound to stall for time while reliever Buck Farmer hurriedly warmed up.

Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull, shown here warming up last month, allowed his first run of the spring on Friday.

Then, after pitching three no-hit innings Friday against the Phillies, he came back out for the fourth, only to throw one pitch. It was a get-me-over curveball that veteran Jay Bruce laced off the fence in right for a double.

Bruce ended up scoring the only run Turnbull has allowed in eight innings this spring.

“I was only allowed one more hitter, no matter what,” Turnbull said after the Tigers’ 9-0 Grapefruit League loss to the Phillies. “It just happened to be one pitch he was ready for. It was a little frustrating. I was like, ‘You can’t give me one more hitter? I threw one pitch. This is stupid.’

“But Gardy and Rick weren’t here, so I didn’t have anyone to argue with.”

BOX SCORE: Phillies 9, Tigers 0

Toledo skipper Tom Prince ran the show Friday while manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson traveled to the Dominican Republic for the game Saturday.

Turnbull, who wasn’t as peeved as his quote may read in cold type, knows it was his own inefficiency that led to having just one batter in the fourth.

“The results have been all right, but I wasn’t where I wanted to be today,” he said. “I was off. Mechanics, command, it just wasn’t the same today.”

That’s saying something about an outing in which he allowed just one hit. But he walked two and fell behind of five of the 12 batters he faced.

“I threw some fastballs that looked like Blitz Balls (backyard game where the ball breaks in both directions),” he said. “I threw some two-seamers that moved a foot and a half and some four-seamers that cut a foot and a half.

“I just wasn’t as sharp.”

His velocity was down just a shade, too, sitting at 94-95 mph.   

“Juan (Nieves, Toledo pitching coach) said I wasn’t getting into my legs as much as I had been,” Turnbull said. “I did some towel drills in the dugout and felt better. Then I went back out and didn’t have a chance to really work on it.

“I was just getting a little lazy with my leg drive.”

His best pitch was the change-up, which he used to strike out Darick Hall and get Bruce to ground out on a 3-2 pitch in the first inning.

To keep it all in perspective, though, Turnbull has allowed two hits and one run with 10 strikeouts in eight spring innings.

“Not bad,” he said. “I feel pretty good. Just a little off.”

But, as he said, pretty good isn’t the goal.

“I’m just trying to stay locked in and keep my mindset where it is right now,” he said. “It’s more the consistency that I’m going for. I don’t want to change anything. I want to be the same guy every time I pitch. Even on a day like today when I wasn’t as sharp as I want to be mechanically or energy-wise, I was still able to execute some good pitches.”

Meanwhile, the Tigers hitters weren’t making any fuss either.

Jake Arrieta, pitching on his 34th birthday, didn’t allow a Tigers’ hit in four innings. He walked four —  three straight with two outs in the second inning —  and hit another, which drove his pitch count to 60. But, no harm no foul.

Through seven innings, while the majority of the starters were in, the Tigers managed two hits — singles by C.J. Cron and Jordy Mercer.

It was rough afternoon for Tigers pitching prospect Franklin Perez. Pitching the eighth inning, he gave up an infield single, two walks and a grand slam home run to Abrahan Gutierrez. He recorded one out in 19 pitches, 10 of which missed the strike zone.

Twitter: @cmccosky