Tigers' Spencer Turnbull trying lock it back in after no-hit performance
Kansas City, Mo. — No pressure, right?
Hall of Famer Jack Morris hopped on the Zoom call Sunday to remind Spencer Turnbull that he’s got a chance to make real history Monday when he takes the mound at Comerica Park against the Indians.
“Have you been reading up on Johnny Vander Meer,” Morris said. “Cleveland’s already been no-hit twice. You can get into a league of your own here. I’m predicting you can still do that. It’d be really cool in this generation to have somebody do that and you’ve got as good a chance at anybody.”
You could feel Turnbull blush through the camera lens.
“It would definitely be cool,” said Turnbull, who threw the eighth no-hitter in Tigers history in last start Tuesday in Seattle. “But I’m definitely not going to put that pressure on myself.”
Vander Meer spun back-to-back no-hitters for the Cincinnati Reds in 1938. Eighty-three years later and nobody’s touched that record. Morris had his chance at it in 1984. It lasted one hitter. The first batter he faced in the start following his no-hitter against the White Sox, Mickey Rivers, singled.
“We’re not going to drag the no-hitter into the next start,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “If he throws three no-hit innings to start, you guys can write that it’s 12 straight innings, but I’m not going to be thinking about that in the dugout, and I don’t expect Spencer to think about that.
“He’s got his hands full with the Indians.”
Pitching a no-hitter, much like winning a major in golf, is a life-changing accomplishment. It puts the player in a special club and raises his national profile.
“I don’t know if life’s changed a ton,” Turnbull said. “But I’ve definitely picked up more followers on Instagram and stuff like that. I took a couple of days to try to soak it all in. I really took that day off (Thursday) and tried to enjoy it.”
He said he didn’t get a full night’s sleep until Saturday night and his phone and in-boxes are still crammed with unanswered messages. Former pitchers in baseball’s no-hit club like Morris and former Tiger Edwin Jackson have reached out to Turnbull.
“I still have hundreds of unread stuff so I might’ve missed a few,” he said with chuckle. “I didn’t hear from (Justin) Verlander, I don’t know him at all. But I did hear from his brother. I know Ben really well.”
Handling the instant celebrity is one after-effect of throwing a no-hitter, handling and recovering from the physical stress is another.
“The heavy workload, usually no-hitters end in high pitch counts,” said Hinch, who as a catcher and manager has been a part of six no-hitters. “That’s the most pitches (117) that he’s ever thrown. The other part is massive attention that comes between starts. It’s not the same routine.
“He’s probably got more text messages in the last couple of days than he’s got in the last couple of years. It’s a heavy and taxing after-effect. He can handle it, but the faster we can get him to the next start and get him up and running the better.”
The extra day between starts will help the physical recovery. The fact that the next opponent is the Indians — a team he’s never beaten (0-6) and that has beaten on him pretty consistently (.325 average, .858 OPS in eight starts) — should help retrain the focus.
“There’s no love lost there with some of that,” Turnbull said. “I know some of those guys on that team, so it’s not like a hate thing, but there’s definitely a strong desire to win.”
The other after-effect of such an accomplishment is validation of process and galvanized self-belief.
“That night was one of the first times I could fully stay locked in and never get out of it,” Turnbull said. “I was kind of able to stay in that zone the whole game. Being able to do that and knowing I can do that is pretty cool.”
His feet are closer to the ground now, for sure, but even five days later he’s still on a cloud.
“It goes away and then it comes back in waves,” Turnbull said. “Like, ‘I can’t believe I did that, it’s crazy.’ That rush will come back. But for days it was like you’re still in a dream and then you realize you’ve got to get back to business quickly.
“I’m pitching against Cleveland on Monday, and this isn’t the end of my career. It was just one awesome moment.”
Hinch and bench coach George Lombard took rookie Akil Baddoo on a field trip here in Kansas City on Thursday. They took him to Negro League Museum.
“Just getting to know him a little better and introducing some things to him about the history of the game,” Hinch said. “He’s a sponge and he wants to learn a lot.”
Baddoo, who had three hits, a walk and two RBIs Saturday, is 8 for 16 over his last seven games, with six walks and five strikeouts in 23 plate appearances. That’s a pretty good bounce-back after a 17-game stretch where he hit .100 with 27 strikeouts in 53 plate appearances.
“We are throwing so much at this young man,” Hinch said. “We need to remember, this is A-ball and Double-A ball development being done at the major-league level. … We have to remind ourselves, as physically and emotionally mature as he is, from a baseball perspective we have to keep giving him tidbits and advice.”
Royals skipper ejected
Royals manager Mike Matheny was ejected in the sixth inning by first-base umpire Adrian Johnson after he ruled that Whit Merrifield swung at a pitch that hit him in the arm.
"First I wanted to make sure Whit was OK," Matheny said. "The check swing call is so subjective. It varies night to night and it's like, what are we looking at? (Merrifield) is hurting and he has to go back in the box now on that subjective call.
"I'm frustrated that he got hit and I'm frustrated that they didn't, in my opinion, get the call right."
On deck: Indians
► Series: Four games at Comerica Park, Detroit
► First pitch: Monday-Wednesday — 7:10 p.m.; Thursday — 1:10 p.m.
► TV/radio: All games BSDet/97.1 FM
► Probables: Monday — LHP Sam Hentges (1-1, 6.46) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-2, 2.88); Tuesday — RHP Aaron Civale (6-1, 3.30) vs. LHP Tarik Skubal (1-6, 5.45); Wednesday — TBA vs. RHP Jose Urena (2-4, 4.62); Thursday — RHP Shane Bieber (4-3, 3.17) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (2-5, 3.08).
► Hentges, Indians: The rookie was moved into the rotation to replace Logan Allen two weeks ago. This will be his third start, and he’s coming off a rough one against the Angels where he didn’t get out of the second inning. With a 95-mph four-seam, an 80-mph curveball and a slider, he’s allowed 11 earned runs and nine walks in 15⅓ innings this season.
► Turnbull, Tigers: The last time he took the mound, last Tuesday in Seattle, he pitched a no-hitter, the eighth in Tigers’ history. His history against the Indians, though, is a little dicey. He’s 0-6 with a 5.18 ERA in eight starts (nine appearances). The Indians have hit .325 against him with a .858 OPS.