The Tigers will be without Spencer Turnbull for the rest of this season, and possibly the duration of next season as well.
Turnbull is undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair chronic damage in his right forearm, manager A.J. Hinch announced Tuesday. The procedure is expected to take place at the end of this month.
"For us, the frustrating part on a lot of fronts, we lose a really good pitcher," said Hinch.
It's a brutal 180 for Turnbull, who threw a no-hitter in May and had a career-best 2.88 ERA through nine starts. He wound up on the injured list with forearm soreness in June, then took a step backward in his rehab in July. That prompted a battery of tests, which revealed the damage to his UCL and the need for Tommy John.
"He’s been seeing an array of doctors and getting tested and getting opinions," said Hinch. "There’s always the tweener of should he rehab for a while or not, and Spencer came to the conclusion it was in his best interests, and quite honestly our best interests, to have it done now."
Recovery from Tommy John is generally 12 to 18 months. Fellow Tiger Michael Fulmer had the surgery in March of 2019 and was back on the mound about a year later, though his stuff wasn't the same until 2021. There's no timetable yet for Turnbull, who turns 29 in September. But Hinch spoke with him Monday and said "he's pretty resolved that he's going to get this right and be back."
"These players, their careers are in their hands and we have a lot of respect for what they go through when they’re just playing the game. When they have to come back from injury, it’s going to be a better, sweeter story for him," said Hinch.
Hinch said the injury wasn't prompted by "a singular event." But the inflammation in Turnbull's elbow increased when he tried to begin throwing again earlier this month, to the point where surgery was the best option.
"It seems like we’re seeing more and more injuries to pitchers over time, whether it’s how they’re training or how we’re using them or the rigors of the season," said Hinch. "It’s unfortunately becoming more and more routine to go through big surgeries like this.
"He’ll bounce back and be really good -- he’s got a long career ahead of himself. But he’s got a long rehab first."