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Jacob Turner gives intriguing glimpse

8/21/2014
Jacob Turner worked two innings Thursday, giving up a run and three hits. Brian Kersey/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs have numerous arms they’d like to give starts to over the final six weeks of the season. Jacob Turner, at one time a top Detroit Tigers prospect, is one of them.

Turner took over for starter Tsuyoshi Wada in the top of the sixth when Tuesday’s suspended game resumed Thursday evening. The right-hander tossed two innings of one-run ball against the San Francisco Giants, giving up three hits with no walks or strikeouts.

Turner ran into some trouble in his first inning of work, giving up a two-out double to Adam Duvall followed by an RBI single to Joe Panik before getting Brandon Crawford to fly out to end the inning. Turner looked headed for more problems in the seventh, when he gave up a lead-off, line-drive single to Travis Ishikawa. However, he retired Angel Pagan on a fielder's choice groundout and induced a double-play grounder by Hunter Pence.

Cubs manager Rick Renteria said keeping the ball down and getting ground-ball outs -- of which Turner recorded five -- is a key for Turner’s future success.

“I watched some of his film, he’s got some tilting, sinking action, arm-side,” Renteria said of Turner. “His ball’s got some life to it, he hit 92 [mph], maybe 93 today. Keeping the ball down is obviously important, and like all pitchers, commanding the zone. I think he made some pitches when he needed to and fortunately for us, gave us two innings of good work.”

Renteria added that he had Turner -- who threw 34 pitches Thursday -- toss in the bullpen after his outing to get him some extra work, as the Cubs hope they can build him up and have him start a few games in the final month of the season.

It might seem odd the Marlins gave up on Turner at such a young age, but as surprise playoff contenders with a roster crunch, they had to make a decision on the erratic 23-year-old. With no options left to send Turner to the minors, Miami decided to trade Turner to the Cubs for some low-level prospects. The Cubs got another underperforming arm from whom they hope they can extract some value.

Turner entered Thursday with a career-high 51.6 percent ground-ball rate (which would put him in the top 20 in all of baseball if he had enough innings to be eligible) and walking only 6.4 percent (the league average is 7.7 percent) of the batters he has faced, both very solid peripherals. Unless something changes, it doesn’t appear he’ll ever be a big strikeout threat (his career strikeout rate is 15.1 percent, well below the league average of 20.3), but the ground balls are something he and pitching coach Chris Bosio can work with down the line.

Turner might never live up to the lofty expectations that came with being drafted ninth overall in 2009 and becoming a consensus top-25 prospect, but that doesn’t eliminate him from being a quality arm in the future. The Cubs hope they can magnify Turner’s strengths and turn him into another effective, young piece of the puzzle.