Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

jacob turner featureWith the Cubs contending for the playoffs for this first time in years, several important side stories have not received the attention they would have otherwise gotten in years prior – like the draft, which is just one week away.

One such story is the health of former top pitching prospect, and recent Cubs reclamation project, Jacob Turner.

The Cubs acquired Turner (who just turned 24) from the Marlins in exchange for two minor league relief pitchers, after claiming him on waivers last August. He pitched poorly for the Cubs down the stretch in 2014, posting a 6.49 ERA and a 4.52 FIP over 34.2 innings, but has a lot of potential and is still very young.

Turner was expected to compete with Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Tsuyoshi Wada and Kyle Hendricks for a spot at the back of the rotation in 2015, but went down in Spring Training with a flexor (elbow) injury on March 10. He was then placed on the MLB 60-day Disabled List to start the season with a shoulder injury (officially termed inflammation), retroactive to March 27, and we hadn’t heard much about his progress ever since.

Well the first news is good news, as Arizona Phil is reporting that Jacob Turner got an extended spring training start for the Cubs on Saturday, May 30 against the Giants. Over three innings of work – 37 pitches – Turner gave up just one hit (a double) after retiring the first eight batters straight.

While it’s great to see solid results, the mere fact that he is facing live hitters – over three full innings – is the key takeaway/win. If Turner is already up to three innings, it’s possible he begins a minor league rehab stint within the next couple weeks. From there, who knows how Turner recovers and the big league teams’ needs develop, but it’s possible he could be helping the Cubs in some capacity in the second half of the season.

In a year like 2015, it’s easy to write off a reclamation type like Turner, given the more pressing stories at the Major League level. He hasn’t put it all together in the majors, quite yet, but Turner has been highly-praised throughout his (very) young career and the Cubs have the kind of pitching infrastructure in place – led by pitching coach Chris Bosio – that has helped other pitchers achieve their potential. Turner was rushed to the majors with Detroit and thrust into a role he may not have been ready for in Miami. While it was strange that Miami gave up on him so quickly, it wouldn’t be shocking for him to finally harness his obvious talent with the right coaching and patience in the Cubs organization.

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