GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A familiar face peered out from behind the catcher’s mask Friday as Jacob Turner took the mound for the first time since last June.
Alex Avila, who also caught Turner’s 2011 debut with the Detroit Tigers, was behind the plate for the White Sox pitcher’s first appearance of the spring. Turner made a strong first impression on his new team and also received a positive review from his old teammate after he struck out two in two scoreless innings. The White Sox got home runs from Brett Lawrie, Adam LaRoche and Jason Coats in a 5-5 tie against the Cleveland Indians.
“(Turner) threw the ball great,” Avila said. “Good life on his fastball, both sides and threw some really good curveballs and changeups there. We’ve been working on a cutter that’s he getting more confidence in. Threw that a few times and looked good.”
Turner joined the White Sox last October when they claimed him off waivers and later signed a $1.5 million contract in December. The former first-round pick has battled elbow and shoulder injuries for the past two seasons. Last year, health limited Turner to two minor-league appearances for the Cubs in June. He has found good health and thrown the ball well between.
But until Friday, Turner hadn’t been back on the mound.
“I felt like the game could have started at 10 o’clock when I got here today,” he said.
Aside from a second-inning walk, it didn’t show. The outing is a continuation of a strong spring for Turner, pitching coach Don Cooper said. Turner has felt healthy enough to even begin working on a cut-fastball.
“The last sideline he had, we challenged him and he passed it all,” Cooper said. “He did very very well on the sideline. He was very, very good and I don’t say that often. We’re hoping he can carry it. This kid has had some rough breaks and he seems to be past that.”
Turner hit 94 mph on the radar gun and also effectively used his curveball. He said he was a little off in the second inning when he struck out Zach Walters to strand runners on the corners.
But overall, Turner felt good.
It didn’t hurt to have Avila catching him, either.
“I haven’t done it in a while so there’s definitely probably more excitement than usual but it’s just fun to be out there competing again,” Turner said. “I’ve had spring training starts with other organizations in the past where I’ve thrown to a catcher and felt like I’ve met him that same day. It was nice to have (Avila) back there. He caught my major league debut so I’m definitely familiar.”
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Turner made six starts for the Tigers before they traded him and Rob Brantly to the Miami Marlins in 2012 in exchange for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. He stayed with the Marlins until he was designated for assignment and the Cubs acquired him on Aug. 8, 2014.
Avila can see a little difference in Turner, 24, this spring. He hopes the right-hander continues to throw as he has.
“He always had the great stuff and now I think he feels confident about himself that he could command his pitches,” Avila said. “He has been looking good all spring.
“He pitched well and it was nice to see. It was nice to catch him, too.”