DETROIT – Rookie Spencer Turnbull passed another tough test Tuesday night and has quietly turned into the second-most reliable pitcher in the Detroit Tigers' starting rotation.
Matt Boyd has undoubtedly been the team's ace through six starts, striking out 48 batters in 37.1 innings while posting a 1.02 WHIP, 3.13 ERA and 1.2 WAR.
Turnbull has also been very good, though, allowing just nine earned runs in 32 innings while striking out 31 batters. He's got a 1.22 WHIP and a 1.1 WAR through his first six starts of 2019.
Turnbull, who appeared in four games for the Tigers last season but still qualifies as a rookie, is the No. 19 prospect in the organization. Despite a well-above average fastball and a solid slider, Turnbull has long been considered a middling prospect.
He didn't get that memo in April, turning in four very good starts in five chances.
Manager Ron Gardenhire called on Turnbull when Tyson Ross went on the paternity list Tuesday in Philadelphia. Despite the short notice, Turnbull went out and allowed just three hits and one run over six innings against the Phillies.
The last two matchups have been the toughest tests for Turnbull this season, and he's passed both with flying colors, allowing just one run on six hits over 11 innings in Boston and Philadelphia.
Turnbull's strikeouts have dropped the last four starts after a 10-strikeout effort against Kansas City on Opening Day in Detroit. He got back on track in terms of swinging strikes Tuesday, getting 11 whiffs from Phillies batters.
He's also induced 30 ground balls compared to 16 fly balls in his last three starts. If he can strike out a batter per inning with a high ground ball rate, Turnbull could very well be one of the Tigers' best starting pitchers the entire season.
With Matt Moore out for the season, Ross and Daniel Norris showing some inconsistencies and Jordan Zimmermann looking unusable even when healthy, Turnbull has given the starting rotation a much-needed boost.