July 14th, 2011
It’s an off-day for the Tigers, who worked out tonight at Comerica Park, but it’s still a news day. It’s also a game day for Double-A Erie, where Jacob Turner has rejoined the club after pitching in the All-Star Futures Game Sunday at Phoenix and the Eastern League All-Star Game Wednesday in New Hampshire.
When Turner talked in Phoenix, he said his next start for Erie was slated for July 18, giving him some extra rest. That plan has changed in recent days. Turner will start for the SeaWolves tomorrow (Friday), despite pitching an inning in the Eastern League All-Star Game two days earlier.
Coincidentally, the Tigers have an open spot in their rotation five days later, the normal time between starts. But it’s difficult to see a pitching prospect being moved up two days in the rotation by a team with an open spot as a coincidence.
That doesn’t mean that Turner is the choice to start next Wednesday. Charlie Furbush started Thursday for Triple-A Toledo, and he remains a strong option to return to Detroit. Duane Below, who takes a 9-4 record and 3.06 ERA into his start for the Mud Hens on Friday, also appears to be an option. There’s also the trade route, though it would be difficult to line up somebody from another team’s rotation to come in and start on that short notice. There are no indications yet that the Tigers have set their plans for next Wednesday.
Even if Furbush starts next Wednesday, that doesn’t necessarily solve the issue beyond that. By moving up Turner, the Tigers put him in line with that fifth spot for the foreseeable future. If Furbush has another rough outing, the Tigers could take the chance and start Turner. But if the Tigers go to Turner, it isn’t likely to be for just a spot start. That’s where this juggling act gets tricky, and why the Tigers are taking their time on this. If Furbush starts and the Tigers later trade for a starter or opt for Turner, Furbush can go the bullpen. They won’t do that shuffle with Turner.
In a move you could see coming, the Tigers closed out Brad Thomas’ rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo and outrighted his contract there, taking the lefty reliever off the 40-man roster.
Thomas has enough service time that he can decline the assignment and become a free agent if he wants, and he has 72 hours to do so. If he does that, however, he forfeits the rest of his Major League contract with Detroit (he signed for a reported $800,000, so he has just under $400,000 coming to him). He’d be taking a chance he can get a better deal somewhere else. He could pitch in Japan or Korea, closer to his home in Australia, but it’s pretty late in the season over there to find a deal.