The Miami Marlins have been threatening to demote Jacob Turner for a little while, and now they finally followed through on their promise. Turner was one of seven Marlins to be demoted to minor league camp in the week leading up to Opening Day, and this move all but assures that we will not see Turner, barring injury, for at least three months.
Turner's spring training season was admittedly awful, as he made four starts in major league camp and gave up 14 runs in just 13 innings. He struck out five hitters and walked nine, showing signs of the Turner that showed up multiple times against major league competition with the Detroit Tigers rather than the one who looked major league ready with the Marlins in 2012. Combine that with the fact that the Marlins had two fifth starter competitors in Wade LeBlanc and Kevin Slowey who pitched well in spring and you can see why the Fish might want to evaluate Turner in Triple-A rather than see him potentially get overmatched in the majors.
The Marlins do have some semblance of an argument in demoting Turner. After all, despite his 2.85 ERA in Triple-A for his minor league career, he was not exactly demolishing the competition at that level, and he has yet to really dominate any level beyond rookie ball. Turner has often been much too young for each level, owing that to the Tigers' aggressive promotion strategy, but he has held up quite well at each stop until reaching Triple-A in 2012. With his spring struggles and last year's problems with strikeouts in the minors, maybe the Marlins are right to at least keep an eye on him for another half season to see if his previously vaunted command and the decent strikeout stuff he flashed last season are present. If there are real mechanical issues with Turner, some minor league time could not hurt him in fixing them.
Then again, we know that Turner can survive at the big league level because we saw that in his 42 2/3 innings last season. It is hard to imagine that he has pitched acceptably in 42 innings in one year and suddenly collapsed and regressed back based on a 13-inning sample the next season. If the Marlins were competing for a playoff spot, maybe this sort of stumble would warrant a demotion, but the team's major league season is just as meaningless in terms of wins and losses as its minor league seasons are. Unless the club feels Turner will struggle and lose confidence in the majors, why not let him work out the kinks against hitters that actually matter?
The move can be debated one way or another, but I am of the opinion that Turner needs to face major league-quality hitters unless the Marlins specifically see a mechanical error in his work. I have yet to hear anything of that nature, so I am presuming the team is making an emotional decision based on a very small, but very ugly, sample size. Still, this move has its benefits as well, and there is a very good chance one of either LeBlanc or Slowey will probably struggle or (one can hope) succeed and be traded by season's end, leading back to the promotion of Turner.
The other players sent down also had some interesting names. Utility players Nick Green and Matt Downs were sent down, leaving the Marlins with few options to back up Adeiny Hechavarria and Donovan Solano outside of Wilson Valdez. Kevin Kouzmanoff, who was having a nice spring at the plate, was also reassigned to the minors. You can also include lefty reliever Dan Jennings, who was expected to compete for a second lefty spot in the bullpen, along with reliever Zack Phillips and infielder Jordan Brown.