Detroit Tigers observations on Day 1: How Tarik Skubal looked in front of manager AJ Hinch

Detroit Free Press

Jeff Seidel | Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Tarik Skubal, one of the most important pieces in the Detroit Tigers rebuild, looked “good” — he looked like himself — in his first bullpen Wednesday morning.

“He looks good — looks like Skubal,” said catcher Grayson Greiner, who caught the bullpen after pitchers and catchers reported to camp. “Very talented guy, very smart guy and I thought he looked pretty good. Threw about 40 pitches and you know he looked like Skubal looked last year.”

By last year, I presume Greiner means how Skubal looked against Minnesota on Aug. 29 when he threw five innings and gave up two runs on three hits, striking out two with no walks.

Yes, that’s the Skubal that Tigers fans are hoping to see more of.

“Throwing hard,” Greiner said. “Spotted up his fastball well. The slider and curveball were working. First day of bullpens, I think everybody’s just trying to get their feet wet and locate their pitches. Nobody’s trying to come out here and throw 100 so you know, he got his feet wet in the big league last year.”

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New Tigers manager AJ Hinch liked what he saw in Skubal.

“It’s fun to watch Skubal throw live BP and he’s throwing one slot over from (Matt) Manning,” Hinch said. “You know, there’s reason to be excited about those guys.”

But Hinch is trying to keep that excitement in perspective.

“I let them know you’re not going to make the team today but what you do today is going to build towards making the team,” Hinch said.

Then, Hinch showed a glimpse into how he communicates and motivates his players.

“There’s a lot written about these guys, there’s a lot talked about these guys,” Hinch said, of the Tigers young prospects. “I told Manning this morning — he was one of the kids I met with — you can use it as motivation. But if you use it as comfort, it’s going to come back and you’re going to regret it because it’s gonna be a distraction.”

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The first home run

I watched the Tigers practice from across the road with a pair of binoculars.

And while I was unable to see the bullpens, I saw plenty of action on the back fields.

I spotted Joey Wentz, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he fielded a ball and tossed it to first base. He looked smooth and easy, pain free. General manager Al Avila said Wentz has made “tremendous progress.”

And while people don’t talk about Wentz as much as Skubal or Mize, he could be another key building block to the rebuild.

On the other field, some of the catchers were taking batting practice.

A ball came over the fence, and a Tigers employee had a bucket, collecting them.

“Who hit that?” I yelled.

“Number 13,” the man replied.

Let the record show, it was Eric Haase, the 28-year-old catcher from Westland, who hit the first official home run of spring training.

Granted, it was just batting practice.

But watching a ball hit on the other side of the fence, when it’s 59 degrees in Florida, when it’s crazy cold back home, is still worth it.

Contact Jeff Seidel: Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to


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