By Robert Wilson

       If there was any question that Madison Central alumnus and Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull could pitch well after being off for a year and half after Tommy John surgery, the right-hander answered with a confident yes Thursday night in Toronto.

Spencer Turnbull and his mom Missy Beach

       Turnbull – the only Mississippian to throw a no-hitter in Major League history in 2021 – won his first game since his surgery with a 3-1 victory over the Blue Jays.

       He allowed five six hits and one run and had six strikeouts and only one walk in five innings.

“I have to give all the glory to the Lord,” Turnbull told the Detroit Free Press. “I felt His presence with me all tonight. I finally feel like I’m trusting him out there. I wasn’t in my head tonight. I felt more like the old me. I’m really excited about that, and I’ll continue to build off that.”

Turnbull was having the best season of his career in 2021. He had a 4-2 record with a 2.88 earned run average in nine starts and threw his no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners on May 18. He last pitched on June 4, then went on the injured list with a strained forearm. He didn’t pitch again and then had his surgery.

Turnbull’s no-hitter was brilliant. He threw 117 pitches with nine strikeouts and only two walks in the 3-0 win over the Mariners. He had never pitched past the seventh inning in his career and was making his 50th start. Turnbull threw 29 first pitch strikes in 34 batters. It was the first no-hitter by a Tigers pitcher since Justin Verlander in 2011.

Turnbull, who played at Alabama and was a second-round pick in the 2014 Major League Draft by the Tigers, was in his third full season with the Tigers in 2021. He made his major league debut in September 2018.

Turnbull showed signs of 2021 Thursday. The 30-year-old threw 88 pitches, 64 for strikes, and ended the Tigers’ six-game losing streak.

“I finally had a slider,” Turnbull said. “It was somewhat decent tonight, which was a huge plus and made it a lot easier tonight. I made a little adjustment on it and finally had something good.”

Turnbull led the major league in losses in 2019 with a 3-17 record, but had a transformation during the offseason, starting with a trip to Uganda with teammate Matthew Boyd and visited the Kingdom Home, which houses victims of child sex trafficking.

“It definitely changes your perspective on stuff and how you look at life,” Turnbull said in story in the Detroit News. “I don’t want to say I was surprised, but to see what Matt and his wife (Ashley) are doing and the impact they are already having, I mean it was amazing to see what one person could do. I was inspired by that. The whole offseason was kind of a research and development approach. I learned a lot I don’t have it figured out all the way, but I learned some things to help me move forward. I’m just trying to be more calm, more present, and more aware. I’ve got a lot of growing to do in a lot of areas, but I am working on some stuff.”

Turnbull hired Devin McKee, Boyd’s performance coach from Washington State, and has his diet and workout program built around his genetic testing.

“I wanted to be able to move better, full-body movement,” Turnbull said. “I wanted to make sure my mobility was right instead of trying to get strong right off the bat. Instead of lifting weights right away, I worked on ankle and hip mobility, things like that. The focus was on durability. Do things so my arm doesn’t take all the stress through the whole season. It was just a matter of looking at some places where I was inefficient in my movement, work on that first and then build strength from there.”

Turnbull was 4-4 in 2020, 4-2 in 2021 and is 1-2 this season.