DETROIT -- The Tigers have named Jacob Turner their spot starter for Thursday. And as the schedule would have it, Turner, 21, will make that Major League season debut in front of one of his mentors -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
Turner was a first-round Draft pick out of Westminster Christian Academy (Mo.) in 2009, the same school Matheny's oldest son, Tate, graduated from last month. Matheny helped coach that '09 Westminster baseball team, and he used his time with Turner to impart advice about the transition to professional baseball.
"He had a lot of people who were in his ear about the mechanical side. I didn't even bother with that," Matheny said. "He was right in the middle of a senior year and was being scouted with 60-plus scouts at every game. So it wasn't the time to talk about that. But the little things -- the routine in between starts, paying close attention and keeping track, keeping a log of what works and even keeping track of hitters and to start taking that next step in professionalism of just not being a thrower, but being a pitcher - those are the things we talked about. And life things, too."
Matheny has continued to stay in touch with Turner, mostly through periodic text messages. The two families are also close, as Tate Matheny and Turner's younger brother, Luke, were four-year teammates on the Westminster team.
"He kind of helped give me an idea of what I needed to expect coming into pro ball, what Spring Training would be like or instructional league, stuff like that," Turner said. "Obviously it's a big transition from pitching in high school to pitching even in instructional league."
Thursday will mark Turner's fourth big league start, but his first against a Cardinals team he grew up cheering for. Turner is 2-1 with a 3.43 ERA in seven Triple-A starts this season.
"I'm a fan of Jacob," Matheny said. "I am a fan of the young man he is and have always admired how he went about it. As a high school kid, you could see that he was ready for this. Then you start adding in the baseball talent to go along with it and he's a special kid. He's got a lot of exciting things ahead of him if he just keeps working and keeps his head like it always has been."