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Back in Lakeland, Turner moves closer to landing job

Two years removed from Tigers rotation battle, righty has solid start for Marlins

Back in Lakeland, Turner moves closer to landing job

LAKELAND, Fla. -- A couple of years ago, Jacob Turner was competing in Spring Training for the fifth-starter spot in Tigers camp. Also in the mix was left-hander Drew Smyly.

It was like old times on Thursday afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium -- except Turner was on the mound for the Marlins, opposing the Tigers' Smyly.

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The edge went to Turner and the Marlins, who prevailed, 4-2, in Grapefruit League play.

Once again the Marlins enjoyed an impressive pitching performance. Turner picked up the win, giving up two runs (one earned) in four innings. Andrew Heaney added three shutout innings, while lefty Adam Conley navigated out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and Sam Dyson closed it out in the ninth.

Returning to Lakeland was like old times for Turner, formerly a highly touted prospect with the Tigers.

"I feel like I kind of grew up in pro baseball here," Turner said. "I've got a lot of friends still here. I probably had a little bit of extra motivation going out there in the first couple of innings today. It was a kind of weird being on the visitor side."

It wasn't completely smooth sailing for Turner, as the 22-year-old scattered four hits, walked one and didn't log a strikeout.

"Turner, I thought he did fine," manager Mike Redmond said. "He had a good tempo. He threw strikes. It was a solid outing for him."

Most importantly for Turner, he remained on course to secure a back-of-the-rotation spot.

Without Minor League options, Turner's situation is simple: He either makes the Marlins' rotation, or he will become a viable trade candidate.

Miami is mindful that Turner won't turn 23 until May, and in July 2012, he was acquired as part of the deal that sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to Detroit. From an organizational standpoint, it becomes a matter of allowing the 6-foot-5 right-hander to keep progressing or test his trade value.

"We like his stuff," Redmond said. "We've seen his stuff real good, too. We're looking for guys to be consistent, throw strikes and give us a chance to win."

The leadoff batter reached in each of Turner's four innings, yet he was able to make quality pitches out of the stretch to keep the game close.

"There is one thing to be said about going out there and cruising through every inning," Turner said. "And there is another thing where maybe the results are coming. My arm feels good.

"You obviously throw your most important pitches out of the stretch. I was happy with how I competed when we got runners in scoring position."

Turner also threw to Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the first time in a game, and the two were able to mix in more offspeed pitches than the right-hander had thrown previously.

"I felt I was able to really mix in a lot more breaking balls than I had the last two times out," Turner said. "That's always nice."

The Marlins have already announced Jose Fernandez as their Opening Day starter, but they haven't set the rest of the rotation or the order. But it is lined up to have Nathan Eovaldi going second, followed by Henderson Alvarez, Turner and Tom Koehler.

Turner made 20 starts last year for Miami, and he finished 3-8 with a 3.74 ERA. As a team, the Marlins finished 62-100, and that still upsets the organization.

"What the coaches have been preaching all spring is it's going to take all 25 guys to go out there and win," Turner said. "That's what everybody wants to do. Nobody wants to lose 100 games again. We're trying to build upon that, however we can, and hopefully put the best team on the field."

The strength of the club remains its pitching, and Turner recognizes the depth in camp.

"In my eyes, it's pretty impressive," the right-hander said. "Not only from the guys still in camp, but also the guys who were in camp early. The arms we have are second to none, in my opinion, especially the starters. Everybody is kind of helping each other. That's kind of cool to see, being everybody is a young guy."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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