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Tigers' Ron Gardenhire gave quick hook to Spencer Turnbull to protect him

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cleveland — If he had his druthers, Spencer Turnbull would’ve liked to be afforded the same opportunity that Matthew Boyd had been given on Monday in Chicago.

Boyd threw 66 pitches in the first two innings against the White Sox, but he was given two more innings to work through his issues and have something to build on for his next start. Turnbull threw 60 pitches in two innings Thursday against the White Sox and his day was over.

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull during the first inning.

Given how taxed the bullpen has been through this recent stretch and that limited-innings starter Michael Fulmer was starting on Monday, it seemed an abrupt hook. Especially when lefty Tyler Alexander was summoned to replace Turnbull.

Alexander was expected to work in tandem with Fulmer Monday. That move forced Gardenhire to improvise his bullpen usage after Fulmer, perhaps using Daniel Norris on short rest. 

Even still, the decision, manager Ron Gardenhire said, required no debate. He pulled Turnbull early to protect him.

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“Thirty pitches per inning, we’re not sending him back out there,” Gardenhire said. “That’s a lot of stress. He was fighting it for two innings and 60 pitches — you can hurt a guy. He started getting tired, the mechanics get out of whack. There is no way you let him go back out.”

Boyd is 29 and has 668⅔ big-league innings under his belt. He also has been relatively healthy throughout his career. Turnbull, 27, has thrown 189⅓ innings in the big leagues and has a history of arm issues while he was coming up through the Tigers’ system.

“Plus he killed the game,” Gardenhire said. “We had no momentum going because we were out playing defense the whole time. That’s when you know we’ve just got to move on here. I talked to Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) and I told him, ‘That’s enough for me.’

“He said OK. He uses a lot of effort but throwing 60 pitches in two innings you are a little worn out. And once you get worn out you get lazy with your mechanics. That’s when you can hurt yourself.”

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It’s called protecting your assets.

Not for lack of effort

The Tigers were on the sun-baked field at Progressive Field at 2 p.m. Friday taking early batting practice.

They went into play Friday ranked in the bottom five in the American League in OPS (.696), batting average (.228) and strikeouts (235) and dead last in on-base percentage (.289).

“We’re just fighting it,” Gardenhire said. “When you start scuffling as a group, more than one or two guys — we’ve had multiple guys all going through the same struggles. We are striking out an awful lot — 15 times (Sunday). You don’t put the ball in play you have no chance to get a hit.

“I learned that in high school. Maybe in kindergarten. We need to have better at-bats, use the whole field and don’t get pull happy. We are working on it.”

No set lineup

Gardenhire is also juggling the batting order just about every day — tailoring it to the opposing pitcher.

“We’re just mixing it up, trying to do different things,” he said.

Against Indians right-hander Adam Plutko Friday, he moved Niko Goodrum back to the lead-off spot and Jeimer Candelario to the fifth spot.

“Part of it was to put Niko in a comfortable spot, but I’m comfortable with him up there, too,” Gardenhire said. “It could be 1-0 right out of the gate. We like that part.”

Goodrum, hitting .198 despite a 50-percent hard-hit rate on balls put in play, is 3-for-30 with 12 strikeouts. Candelario hit leadoff the two previous games and was 4-for-8 with three RBIs.

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“Maybe we can get some RBI situations for the guys who are swinging good, who knows?” Gardenhire said. “So we put Candy in the five-hole. We don’t really have a set lineup. We are just kind of matching to each pitcher.”

Around the horn

Buck Farmer, back after missing 10 days with a left groin strain, said he only went two days without throwing. “I spent the first two days just focusing on the groin. Then from the third day on, I threw every day. Great job by the staff down there, and up here, getting me right as quickly as possible.”

…Outfielder Cameron Maybin, who left the game Sunday after striking out in the seventh inning with a leg injury, was not in the lineup Friday. Gardenhire didn’t have any medical updates before the game.

…Nor did Gardenhire have any reports on Ivan Nova, who is on the injured list with a right triceps strain. He was asked if he’d given any thought to how Nova will fit back into the rotation. “No,” he said. “And I’m not trying to. I’ve got a lot of stuff on my mind, I don’t want to put that on there too. When it happens, we’ll figure it out.”

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

Tigers at Indians

First pitch: Saturday, 7:10 p.m.

TV/radio: FSD, 97.1

Scouting report:

LHP Matthew Boyd (0-3, 9.64) Tigers: He needed 66 pitches to get through two innings in Chicago and was at 90 when he was pulled after four innings. But there were positive signs: Nine strikeouts, 16 swings and misses, 11 with his slider. When he started mixing in a change-up, he rolled through the third and fourth innings.

RHP Triston McKenzie (MLB debut), Indians: Pretty good story here. Once the 33rd best prospect in baseball, McKenzie hasn’t thrown a pitch in a professional game since June of 2018. He’s battled back and pectoral injuries for two years.

--Chris McCosky