Before Mike Matheny was named manager of the Cardinals, he spent a few years as a part-time assistant baseball coach at a high school in St. Louis called Westminster Christian Academy.
In 2009, Matheny offered tips and advice to an 18-year-old right-hander on the Westminster varsity team named Jacob Turner. And now the two will meet again on a Major League Baseball diamond.
Turner — a first-round pick of the Tigers in the ’09 amateur draft and currently 21 years of age — will be on the mound in Thursday’s series-finale against the Cardinals, a team he grew up rooting for now being managed by one of his mentors.
“He’s a special person,” Turner told John Lowe of the Detroit Press when asked Wednesday about the role Matheny played in his young-adult life, “Obviously, I feel like he helped me a lot.”
Matheny has often featured multiple bench guys in day games, but he has the big guns out for Turner. Rafael Furcal bats leadoff, followed by Skip Schumaker, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina, David Freese, Matt Adams and Daniel Descalso. It’s MLB.TV’s Free Game of the Day.
Turner will be making his 2012 debut. He was promoted Thursday morning after posting a 3.43 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 27/19 K/BB ratio in 42 innings for the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate in Toledo, Ohio.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.