Detroit — Normally, live batting practice sessions are done in relative obscurity — just players getting in their work. It’s normally a fairly mundane part of the pregame activity.
It was decidedly less mundane Friday. Four and half hours before first pitch and Comerica Park was buzzing. Players and coaches from both teams were milling around the dugouts and behind the batting cage to witness a couple of high-profile live BPs.
First, White Sox closer Liam Hendriks took the mound. Cleared by doctors after fighting through non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hendriks was throwing his second and possibly final live session. He could be activated on Monday.
“It’s really cool to see him back,” said Tigers lefty Tarik Skubal, who took the mound shortly after Hendriks.
Skubal, who is coming back off flexor tendon surgery, isn’t as close to real competition as Hendriks. It was his first live BP. But it was impressive.
“What do you want to know about him?” said Jonathan Schoop, one of the three batters who faced Skubal. “He’s nasty. He’s good, man. His command was good and his fastball hit 98 (mph). He’s a big guy and that fastball gets on you. He’s going to be really good for this organization for a long time.”
Skubal threw his proscribed 20 pitches and got through four batters. He struck out Andy Ibanez and Schoop, got Nick Maton to roll a ground ball toward second and then Ibanez hit a grounder toward third base in his second at-bat.
“I felt good,” Skubal said. “I felt like I commanded things pretty well. For the first one, I will take it. I had a 20-pitch limit, so to get through four hitters in 20 pitches was good.”
He threw all of his pitches. In fact, he pitched backwards to Schoop — start with off-speed and finish with fastballs. That’s not something you often see pitchers do in live sessions.
“He threw me a curveball, changeup, changeup, sinker, fastball up — done,” said Schoop, who swung through the heater. “It was 98. I couldn’t catch up to it. His changeup was like 92.”
Skubal admitted he had this date circled on his calendar.
“I think I always do a pretty good job of trying to throw my bullpens at game intensity,” Skubal said. “And it’s not like there was anything more that I exerted. It’s just with hitters in the box it becomes a competition. It feels more personal when there is a hitter in the box.
“You are trying to get guys out as opposed to trying to execute against a ghost in the pen.”
According to the medical update released by the Tigers on Friday, Skubal is scheduled to throw another live session next week. He would presumably, if things stay on course, be sent on a rehab assignment after that.
Right-hander Spencer Turnbull (neck) continues to be fully shutdown. When tests revealed the injury in his neck after his last start May 6, it was expected to take four weeks for the neck to heal. He’s two weeks into that process now.
Turnbull said he’s had an MRI every week and the tests have shown gradual healing. He will have another MRI in two weeks. If it shows sufficient healing at that point, he will resume his throwing program and upper-body training.
“It’s definitely testing my patience, for sure,” he said. “It’s not what I wanted this season. But there is nothing I can do about it. Just have to get it right. Let it heal up and back out there.”
Turnbull had been pitching through the discomfort in his neck since his second start of the season. The Tigers initially optioned Turnbull to Toledo after his last start but when the injury was revealed, they rescinded the option and put him on the injured list.
“I should have spoken up about it,” said Turnbull, who changed agents and hired Scott Boras. “I shouldn’t have tried to play through it. That was on me for not saying something about it sooner, just trying to be tough.”
Sizzling in May
The Tigers might not want this month to end. They took a 13-8 record into the game Friday with several offensive players catching fire. Namely:
▶ Riley Greene is slashing .385/.455/.590, with a 1.044 OPS. He’s produced seven doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs in May.
▶ Spencer Torkelson is slashing .284/.363/.444, with an OPS of .807. He’s hit seven doubles with two homers and 11 RBIs.
▶ Akil Baddoo is slashing .294/.379/.471, with an OPS of .850, three doubles, two homers, 10 RBIs, seven walks and seven runs.
▶ Zach McKinstry is slashing .269/.451/.327, with a .778 OPS, 16 walks, two hit-by-pitches and 12 runs scored.
Around the horn
Right-hander Matt Manning (foot) will throw his second bullpen session on Saturday. His first session last week was light, just testing the strength of the foot off the slope of the mound. He is expected to ramp it up a bit tomorrow.
… Outfielder Kerry Carpenter (shoulder) started his rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo Friday.
… Right-hander Beau Brieske (ulnar nerve entrapment) will throw his second live bullpen session Saturday.
White Sox at Tigers
▶ First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit
▶ TV/radio: BSD/97.1
▶ TBA, White Sox: The White Sox were expected to announce their starter after the game Friday.
▶ RHP Michael Lorenzen (2-2, 4.08), Tigers: He went into his last start having allowed two runs in his previous 20 innings and promptly got tagged for three in the first inning in Kansas City, including back-to-back homers by Vinnie Pasquantino and Salvador Perez. He gave up three homers in the game, something he’s only done two other times in his career: On July 1 last year, right before he went on the IL, and in his big-league debut in 2016.