SARASOTA, Fla. — Tarik Skubal was the last of the highly touted pitching prospects in Tigers camp to pitch in a game this Spring Training. He was also one of the most highly anticipated.
“I think my fear is that he’s going to want to do it all tonight,” manager A.J. Hinch said before Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Orioles. “And he doesn’t have to feature his best stuff in every situation in a two-inning stint that we’re hoping to get out of them.”
Maybe Skubal, the Tigers’ No. 5 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, didn’t have to, but he wasn’t far off.
Skubal’s fastball sat at 96 mph on the Ed Smith Stadium radar gun, including the high heater he blew by Orioles top prospect Adley Rutschman for a fourth-inning strikeout. He threw his new splitter a half-dozen times or so with good results, and his curveball buckled a couple of hitters on his way to two scoreless innings and two strikeouts.
“If I can throw all four pitches every outing, I think I’ll do pretty well out on the mound,” Skubal said. “That’s been the plan going forward, is being able to throw more offspeeds and not rely on the fastball so much.”
If he was trying to win a rotation spot in his first outing of Spring Training, he presented a strong opening argument, complete with his entire arsenal.
“I feel like I understand the situation of trying to win a rotation spot,” Skubal said afterward. “I understand what’s going on. But at the same time, I’m not focusing on that, because that’s not where I want to put my head or my thoughts. I’m just trying to get ready for a season and get my stuff, command, the way I get down the mound, I want to get everything fine-tuned. That’s kind of what I did last Spring Training. That’s what I’m going to do going forward.”
It’s a serious outlook for someone whose approach has struck his manager. Hinch has pushed the prospects in camp and emphasized that he’ll evaluate the young pitchers on their performance, not just scouting reports or attention. He has not had to say much about Skubal.
“Tarik is a very serious guy, even behind the scenes,” Hinch said. “He’s an intimidating guy when it comes to being on the mound with his stuff and his presence.”
His plan with all four pitches in his first outing certainly fits the mold. Fittingly, he finished his outing with a strikeout of Ryan Mountcastle, walking toward the dugout in business-like fashion as catcher Dustin Garneau threw to Spencer Torkelson at first just in case.
Dad Fulmer returns with strong outing
Michael Fulmer returned to Florida on Wednesday, having left the team at the start of the week to join his wife at home in Oklahoma for the birth of their second child. However, he wasn’t cleared to rejoin Tigers camp until Friday, when his COVID intake testing was complete. He still had to find a way to be ready for his start Saturday. So he improvised.
“Luckily enough, I’ve got a buddy back home that I’d been playing catch with, and he was still there,” Fulmer said of Cale Coshow, who signed a Minor League contract with the Tigers last month. “He went to Oklahoma Christian, and I was lucky enough that the coach out there let us borrow a catcher and throw a bullpen [session] Monday.”
Fulmer made a point to thank his wife, Kelsey, for watching their two kids — including newborn daughter Sadie Caroline — while he left the house to throw.
Fulmer showed minimal impact from the absence. His fastball Saturday sat at 93 mph, which is the same as his average from last season. He froze Pedro Severino with it for a strikeout to end his second and final inning. He also threw some curveballs, a pitch he has dusted off from his younger days, with mixed results.
“A little rusty, kind of thrown off my routine a little bit, but for good reasons,” Fulmer said. “Overall, I think the stuff was there, stuff was moving the right way. Just maybe a few more strikes, but I was happy with everything overall.”
First shot at second goes well for Paredes
Isaac Paredes was a shortstop before he became a third-base prospect, and still made starts up the middle two years ago at Double-A Erie. So in that sense, his solid outing at second base Saturday shouldn’t be a big surprise. Still, he had a pair of highlights.
Paredes, the Tigers’ No. 6 prospect, ended Michael Fulmer’s first inning with a slick double-play turn on Anthony Santander, fielding in the hole and firing on target to Niko Goodrum, who relayed to a stretching Torkelson at first.
“I’m trying to get a ground ball there any way I can,” Fulmer said, “and Paredes did a great job making the turn. That’s what we’re shooting for there. Good job all around by everybody.”
Two innings later, Paredes made a diving catch up the middle on a Yolmer Sánchez line drive to end Skubal’s opening inning.
“When we played in Erie and he was playing shortstop, he made great plays, too,” Skubal said. “He would play third base and make great plays. So I think he has a utility where you can put him anywhere in the field and he’ll have success.”