Detroit Tigers intrasquad observations: Spencer Turnbull dominates

Evan Petzold
Detroit Free Press

Everything has been going right for Detroit Tigers outfielder Derek Hill.

A barehanded recovery catch in center field last week. Turning a single into a double before making a diving catch in Wednesday's intrasquad scrimmage. Then, on Thursday, he found a way to make another impression with a second-inning triple.

But then Hill came up awkwardly. The 24-year-old departed the game with left knee bruise after the triple at Comerica Park. The injury isn’t believed to be severe, but it was a blip in a night that otherwise belonged to right-hander Spencer Turnbull, who in a dominating intrasquad performance looked ready for next week's season-opening series at the Cincinnati Reds.

Here's what stood out in Thursday’s scrimmage:

Turnbull dominates

Turnbull, 27, gave himself a boost of confidence through four innings, only needing 44 pitches to retire the 12 batters he faced. He struck out six without allowing a base runner.

Detroit Tigers' Spencer Turnbull pitches during intrasquad action Thursday, July 16, 2020 at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Turnbull looked strong enough to make it six or more innings, still pumping a 96 mph fastball in his final frame, but manager Ron Gardenhire didn't let him go any further. He tossed his curveball, slider and fastball with elevation to send down Willi Castro (twice), Cameron Maybin (twice), Harold Casto and Riley Greene.

The 6-foot-3 righty began climbing the ladder with a 0.82 ERA and 0.72 WHIP in four spring training games (11 innings), which included a 13-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has carried the momentum through summer camp and looks like an excellent complement to team ace Matthew Boyd this season. 

Candelario locks himself in

Jeimer Candelario has consistently been penciled into the Team Miggy lineup alongside the expected starters, despite being in a position battle at third base with 25-year-old Dawel Lugo,

Candelario's hitting struggles (.203 average in 2019) put his starter status in jeopardy, but by nearly every measure he has looked improved in camp after quarantining with Robinson Cano in the Dominican Republic.

Against Ivan Nova in Wednesday's scrimmage, he had two encouraging at-bats: a double up the middle and an opposite-field double that nearly left the ballpark. On Thursday, he tripled to the right-center field gap, which was even enough to score Miguel Cabrera from first base. In Candelario's first at-bat, he took Dario Agrazal to the warning track. 

Lugo made a second-inning error on a hot-shot grounder off Austin Romine's bat.

Power: Cabrera lacking, Cron excelling

Make of this what you will, but the slimmer version of two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera might take some getting used to. He's still got the eye to duel with any pitcher, but his power that re-emerged in the spring has taken a dip in summer camp.

He struck out to end the first against Agrazal but returned in the third to work the count to 3-2 and take a walk. Cabrera did score on Candelario's triple, sending his teammates into laughter. In the fifth inning against reliever Shao-Ching Chiang, he drove the ball right back at Chiang, who made the line-drive grab.

Cabrera has no extra-base hits so far in intrasquad games, which for an aging hitter of his caliber may mean nothing. But it is worth noting.

Meanwhile, first baseman C.J. Cron hit home runs in the second and fifth innings against Agrazal and Chiang, respectively, Thursday. In the spring, he slashed .346/.452/.731 with three homers and five RBIs in 12 games.

Last season, Cron had 17 homers and 54 RBIs for the Minnesota Twins at the All-Star break before a nagging thumb injury that required surgery cut his second half to 47 games.

Greene starts... again

It's becoming normal to see outfield prospect Riley Greene in the starting lineup at Comerica Park. He's only 19 years old but sure doesn't play like it.

Take Wednesday night for example, when JaCoby Jones was scratched from the lineup because of a left oblique strain. Gardenhire plugged in Greene as a last-second addition, even though he has no big-league experience.

Greene flourished with a diving catch near the right-field foul pole to rob Austin Romine of a double in the second inning Wednesday, before his opposite-field home run in the top of the seventh.

Greene started again Thursday in right field and had a line-drive single in the top of the eighth.

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