Seeing Matthew Boyd back on mound buoys Tigers pitcher Tarik Skubal’s spirits during rehab

Detroit News

Seattle — It had to be heartening for lefty Tarik Skubal to watch his mentor and former teammate Matthew Boyd pitch Monday night.

Not so much because Boyd dominated Tigers hitters for three scoreless innings, punching out five. But it must’ve been encouraging to see how sharp he was 15 months after he went through the same surgical procedure Skubal did.

“That’s as good as I’ve seen his stuff in more than just one inning,” said Skubal, the Seattle University product who spent the last two days here with the Tigers. “I’ve been trying to watch and keep tabs just because he was a big mentor of mine when I came up and debuted.

“It was good to see a guy who went through the same deal come back and see that his stuff is still right there. He looked great.”

Boyd, in June of 2021, and Skubal, on Aug. 17 of this year, had their left flexor tendons surgically repaired. Boyd’s was done in Dallas by Dr. Keith Meister. Skubal’s in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal ElAttrache. Not that any two injuries and surgeries are identical by any means, but the tedium of the rehab process is similar.

In that sense, Boyd has been and will continue to be a guidepost for Skubal.

“We’ve talked,” Boyd said. “I told him, ‘Where you are at now, it’s pretty mundane.’ It’s just getting stronger, getting range of motion. As he goes through it and you start getting closer, it comes with its own ups and downs. It’s not a straight-line thing.

“This is the build-up time. Get the shoulder stronger. Get your body stronger. Work the forearm. He’s in that time now. Just put your nose down and keep working hard.”

Working hard has never been a problem for Skubal. His issue is more along the lines of trying to do too much too soon.

“Matt will be a mentor throughout the rehab process,” Skubal said. “If I feel something or if something is sore, I’m going to text him and just make sure things are normal.”

What he’s not going to do, though, is emulate Boyd’s timetable.

“I’m not going to put a timetable on my recovery or compare myself to his timetable,” he said. “Just because you never know. I’m going to try to keep it day by day. That’s just better for me mentally, too. I don’t want to get to a certain point and I’m not where I’m supposed to be – you don’t want to think about that.

“Just keep it day to day.”

Skubal had to delay his surgery for a day because ElAttrache, who works for the Dodgers and Rams, had to do an exploratory procedure on Dodger’s right-hander Walker Buehler. Skubal had the same procedure the next day. Where Dr. ElAttrache found ulnar collateral nerve damage with Buehler, he found a strong, healthy UCL on Skubal.

“The imaging showed a strain but when I had the surgery, I didn’t know what I was getting,” Skubal said. “When he opened me up and saw the UCL looked great, he just fixed the flexor tendon. And my arm feels good. I’m very thankful it’s the shorter rehab process.”

Skubal already has been through the 18-month Tommy John rehab when he was a junior at Seattle U.

“It’s the best-case scenario in terms of all the surgical outcomes,” he said. “But it was weird waking up and not knowing what had been done. I asked and when they told me I was like, ‘Oh, that’s good,’ and then I went right back to sleep from the anesthesia.”

Skubal will have the arm re-examined in two months. He hopes after that he will be put on plan that moves him toward a throwing program with the idea of being in Lakeland in January for the final phase of the rehab. The Tigers are hopeful he can pitch in the big leagues at some point next season.

But being back around his teammates was good medicine.

“This is huge,” he said. “I love being here. I love this team. It sucks not being able to play but it’s good just to be in the clubhouse and around the guys again. It’s as important for me mentally as it is physically to check in.

“These are the guys I want to win a championship with.”

Skubal, 25, was putting together a strong season when the injury struck. He was 7-8 with a 3.52 ERA in 21 starts.

“I’m proud of the way I pitched and I’m proud of the way I competed,” he said. “I prepared my body well. That’s something I can sleep with in terms of getting hurt. I did everything I could physically, mentally and day-to-day nutrition-wise. It’s just part of the game.”

More: Baddoo, Haase, Lange three points of light in an otherwise dark Tigers season

Cabrera on Team Venezuela

The Tigers announced Tuesday that Miguel Cabrera has agreed to play for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

“I feel proud to represent Venezuela again at the WBC,” Cabrera said. “I’m excited to be part of a team that will have the best players from our country currently playing in Major League Baseball.”

Cabrera, who has played in the four previous tournaments, initially said he wouldn’t play, wanting the younger players to get a chance to compete in the tournament.

“In talking to Omar Lopez, who is going to be the manager, Miggy is such a big icon in our sport, let alone in Venezuela,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “I know he wanted him to be a part of it. And Miggy wants to be a part of it — whatever the playing time ends up being with the DH and pinch-hitting.

“I’m not concerned about his spring as much as I’m excited for him to do this again.”

Cabrera will be 40 in April and going into the final year of his contract with the Tigers.

“I know it has been a long time since the last WBC, but the waiting is over,” Cabrera said. “I’m aware of the huge talent of our players and coaches with us at Team Venezuela. Being with them and wearing the Venezuelan jersey makes me feel very proud.

“I will be there with them, cheering and helping them in all ways. I will contribute to my team in any role the manager wants me to.”

He will miss a couple of weeks of spring training while competing with Team Venezuela.

“You know, that may be a tick easier schedule than our spring training, to be honest,” Hinch said. “He’s done this a ton and he takes great pride in it. Just about every dugout we’ve been in has been surrounded by Venezuelan flags and Venezuelan people who just want a glimpse of Miggy.

“It’s just a reminder of how influential he is around the baseball community and that country. While he’s an active player, if he wasn’t on that team it would be a big void.”

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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