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Marlins DFA Jacob Turner: Where did it all go wrong?

Jacob Turner
Jacob Turner Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The Miami Marlins saw enough of Jacob Turner this season and decided to designate him for assignment just before Tuesday’s series opener with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Brian Flynn was called up in place of Turner to contribute to the bullpen as a long reliever.

"It's a tough situation with Jake," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said during his daily-pregame press conference. "We gave him a lot of opportunities and a lot of time. It came down to a decision where we just ran out of time. It's unfortunate with a guy who is so young. At the same time, too, it's an opportunity for Flynn to come up and show what he can do."

How did it all go wrong with Turner? Where did it all go wrong? This was never part of the plan.

The Marlins originally acquired Turner, along with Flynn and catcher Rob Brantley in a July 2012 trade with the Detroit Tigers for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. He finished that season with a 3.38 ERA in seven starts at the age of 21. At the age of 22, Turner recorded a 3.74 ERA in 2013. So how at 23 does he finish his Marlins career – should a team trade for him in the next ten days – with a 6.03 ERA and had to go back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen?

He was supposed to be better this season. If not just for extra experience building up to this season but he raised his fastball velocity and developed the changeup to complement his sinker during spring training.

"It’s kind of always been a pitch that I probably haven't thrown as much as I should have," Turner said after a spring training start. "It's probably the hardest pitch for a hitter to see because you get the same arm slot and you get the same arm speed. So it's something that playing off my sinker can be really successful."

For some reason it didn’t work during the first half of the season, but Redmond decided to give Turner a fresh start and put him back into the rotation after the All-Star break. Redmond at the time said the plan was for him to finish the season in the rotation and that his contribution to the staff's effort is vital to Miami's second half campaign.

“Pitching is the key to our success,” Redmond said after announcing Turner’s return to the rotation. “We’re not going to be able score five or six runs [per game], as much as I love to say we can do that. There’s going to be some nights where we don’t score and we got to pitch. We need those guys to step up and fill those spots in the rotation and give us a chance to win some ballgames.”

And it looked like Turner actually turned the corner. He won both his road starts and struck out eight batters in 10.2 innings while only allowing three earned runs. His immediate success helped propel the Marlins back to .500 after a six-game winning streak in late July.

Backup catcher Jeff Mathis caught Turner for both starts and could see the difference in his confidence.

“I think he’s getting confidence every fifth day,” Mathis said about Turner just before the July 31 trade deadline. “The confidence comes from being able to throw strikes with multiple pitches and that’s what he’s been doing. His slider’s been good for him, his two-seamer is coming around again and he’s throwing it for strikes, and the changeup has also helped him out a lot.”

Even starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had faith in Turner throughout all his struggles.

“You’re not in the big leagues because you stink,” said Saltalamacchia. “You’re in the big leagues because you’re good.”

As viewed from his fatal poor start against the Cincinnati Reds, the groundball pitcher was overly reliant of his fastball. Eight of the nine hits Turner allowed in the Marlins 7-3 loss to the Reds on Sunday came off the fastball which ranged from 89-93 mph. His two walks, which led to runs, came from not properly locating his fastball.

Turner is a groundball dependent, pitch to bad contact type pitcher who looked like he didn’t throw his breaking pitches as much as he should have. He was drafted ninth overall in the 2009 MLB Draft and made his debut in 2011. So much of his options were used by the Tigers and his final option was used by the Marlins last season.

The DFA is a signal that Turner is no longer part of the Marlins’ long term starting rotation plans. That was taken from him by the acquisition of Jarrod Cosart, a more advanced version of Turner even though at the same age.

Should nothing change from now to 2015, the Marlins rotation at full strength/health would be Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, Tom Koehler and Cosart with Brad Hand in the mix.