DETROIT -- One year ago Tuesday, the Tigers were coming off a complete-game shutout at the hands of ex-teammate Edwin Jackson and trying to salvage a game against the White Sox. They won their next game, moved into a tie for first place in the American League Central and never trailed in the division the rest of the year.
They hadn't been shut out since then until Tuesday's 13-0 blanking at the hands of the Angels. But even after a 158-game scoring streak that ranked as the longest in franchise history, it seemed like a footnote the way the evening unfolded.
One year ago at the same time, the Tigers were debating what to do with Jacob Turner, ranked by MLB.com as Detroit's top prospect, who was dominating hitters at Double-A Erie at the time. Two weeks later, he made his Major League debut at Comerica Park against the Angels.
Turner wasn't ready for the Majors, but it was a one-time assignment until newly acquired Doug Fister filled their rotation void. After Tuesday's outing, the sentiment was similar, and the results backed it up.
"Jacob is a potential top-of-the-rotation guy that just needs some more seasoning, I think," manager Jim Leyland said after Tuesday's loss.
Hours earlier, Leyland had lamented calling up Rick Porcello too early in hindsight, taking the blame for the growing pains that have followed Porcello since he made the rotation three years ago at age 20. Turner's results seemed to frame it eerily well.
The way Turner climbed the Tigers' farm system, it's easy to forget that he turned 21 in May and has just 18 starts above the Double-A level. Had he gone to college instead of signing out of high school, this would've been his Draft year.
He has tantalized with outings that have given the Tigers a chance, including five innings of one-run ball four weeks ago against St. Louis. Tuesday wasn't one of them. Whether it was a regression or a hiccup is up for debate among the many scouts, maybe a dozen, who were present for his showdown opposite Angels pitching prospect Garrett Richards.
They weren't all here for Turner; more than a few were here for the Angels, who are likewise in the trade market for help. They saw a show, all from the Angels.
"There's pitches up here that you pay for a lot more than you might down there," Turner said. "I'm just getting a little sharper on everything."
Those scouts watched Turner befuddle Mark Trumbo on a breaking ball in the first inning for an 0-2 count, then deliver a sinker that didn't sink and hung over the plate for Trumbo to hammer 415 feet for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead before Turner had recorded an out.
"Trumbo's a good hitter. I mean, that was supposed to be a sinker down and in and it stayed out over the plate, and he hit it hard," catcher Alex Avila said in defense of the pitch selection. "There's always going to be times where a guy looks silly on a pitch, and then you come back with it and he hits that pitch."
They saw Mike Trout continue to defy rookie expectations with an opposite-field homer that hit the concourse in right-center field on a bounce. Estimated at 442 feet by ESPN, it's the kind of homer reserved in these parts for Miguel Cabrera. They saw Albert Pujols follow five pitches later with a shot into the Tigers' bullpen, which quickly sprung into action to replace Turner in the third.
"He's got a good arm," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Turner. "We saw him last year. There's no denying his arm. But like some young pitchers with big arms -- and we've seen it with Garrett, we've seen it from some other pitchers that have been around -- sometimes it takes a while for guys to harness it."
Turner (0-1), who pitched a complete-game shutout in his last Mud Hens start July 7, gave up seven runs on six hits in two innings Tuesday.
Said Leyland: "We could've caught lightning in a bottle and he could've had a great outing, but I wasn't really expecting that. I wasn't expecting what happened to happen, either."
Richards (3-1) had that kind of outing, statistically at least, allowing three singles despite four walks over seven shutout innings that Leyland described as "effectively wild."
Turner's not ready yet, Leyland said, but he had no answer whether Drew Smyly, the 22-year-old rookie whose intercostal strain prompted Turner's callup, will be. The rotation spot comes back around for Sunday's series finale against the division-leading White Sox, who beat the Red Sox on Tuesday to go 3 1/2 games up on Detroit.
It's a critical set, which is why Justin Verlander was lined up to pitch the series opener on Friday. If Smyly isn't ready, the Tigers have a decision to make. They aren't expected to turn to Duane Below, who made a spot start earlier.
Unless the Tigers pull a trade in the next few days, they might have to turn back to Turner, ready or not, which made Leyland's remarks unusual.
"Could that happen? It could," Leyland said. "Will that happen? I have no idea."