Detroit Tigers considering six-man rotation, not ready to make Gregory Soto the closer

Detroit Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull has actually taken the next action in his return from COVID-19, as the company moved him Thursday from its spring training complex in Lakeland, Florida, to the alternate training website in Toledo, Ohio.

Turnbull, 28, is anticipated to pitch in a simulated video game or an intrasquad video game this weekend at Fifth Third Field. While in Lakeland, he tossed a three-inning simulated video game and numerous bullpen sessions to develop his endurance.

“He’s moving into the next phase of his rehab, so to speak, and we’ll continue to assess how he’s doing, when he fits in and where he fits in,” supervisor AJ Hinch stated Friday. “Right now, it’s just getting him to the better competition and more game-like stuff.”

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Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull walks off the field during spring training Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, on the Tiger Town practice fields in Lakeland, Florida.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull strolls off the field throughout spring training Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, on the Tiger Town practice fields in Lakeland, Florida.

As soon as Turnbull returns, he will sign up with a beginning rotation including right-handers Julio Teheran, Jose Urena and Casey Mize and lefties Matthew Boyd and Tarik Skubal. At that point, the Tigers will require to determine how to handle 6 beginners.

A six-man rotation appears to be the most rational alternative, and it’s something basic supervisor Al Avila meant this offseason. However Hinch stated there are other situations, too.

“We could consider a six-man when he comes back,” Hinch stated. “Or maybe something happens between now and then that we’re not anticipating, and we have to make a difference decision. So we’re not committing to anything.”

Not yet, Soto

Hinch has called on left-handed reliever Gregory Soto out of the bullpen for some of the most crucial moments early in the season, and the 26-year-old — for the most part — has delivered. Still, Hinch isn’t ready to give Soto the esteemed closer role.

“I’m not ready to name an official title, and I may never be able to,” Hinch stated. “I mean, I will eventually, probably so you guys stop asking the question.”

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Tigers pitcher Gregory Soto, center, takes the field during practice on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Comerica Park, a day before Opening Day against the Cleveland Indians.

Tigers pitcher Gregory Soto, center, takes the field during practice on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Comerica Park, a day before Opening Day against the Cleveland Indians.

In three appearances, Soto has actually allowed two runs on four hits and two walks, picking up four strikeouts, in four innings. He earned a save on Opening Day (when he allowed the two runs on a home run with a 3-0 lead) and pitched the ninth and 10th innings in a 4-3 win Tuesday.

This spring, Soto registered a 2.70 ERA, four walks and 10 strikeouts in 6⅔ innings across seven games. He had a 4.30 ERA with 13 walks and 29 strikeouts over 23 innings during the 2020 campaign.

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If the Tigers need a closer for Friday’s three-game series opener against Cleveland at Progressive Field, Hinch could turn to Soto. “He might close tonight’s game,” he said. “He could potentially pitch the ninth inning tonight, sure.”

‘A second Opening Day’

Pitching coach Chris Fetter returned for Friday’s game against Cleveland after missing the first two series of the season with COVID-19. Two days before the Tigers left spring training, the 35-year-old tested positive for the virus.

He has actually since cleared protocols to rejoin the team.

“It’s nice to have him back,” Hinch said. “It’s a second Opening Day for us, and we’re going to celebrate that with him today. He flew on the team plane with us, so that was his first trip and then had his first day. He’s anxious to be in the trenches.”

Not only did Friday serve as a season debut for Fetter, but it was also his career debut as a coach in the major leagues. The Tigers hired Fetter away from his function as pitching coach at Michigan in early November, one week after Hinch became manager.

“It’s different having our full group together for the first time,” Hinch stated. “Pitchers are really happy he’s here. They all did their work early with him, and then we’ll get his first game under his belt.”

First taxi squad

For the 10-game road trip, the Tigers announced their first taxi squad this season: right-handers Kyle Funkhouser, Alex Lange and Erasmo Ramirez, first baseman Renato Nunez and catcher Dustin Garneau.

“We’re going to fill out our taxi squad with some areas that we see as potential fits on this road trip,” Hinch said. “I mean, obviously, if something happens, then we have reinforcements. It doesn’t marry us to just taking guys off the taxi squad if something happens. We may call up somebody different. But this is a group we wanted to go with for the three series we have.”

Each team can carry up to five players — one must be a catcher — from the alternate training site for road games.

If a player from the taxi squad plays in a game, it does not count versus MLB service time. Also, taxi squad members do not get paid a major-league salary, even if they get into video games. They are still paid their minor-league wage.

Evan Petzold is a sports press reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This post initially appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers thinking about 6 beginners when Spencer Turnbull returns

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.