What’s next for Detroit Tigers left-hander Tarik Skubal? Rehab assignment coming soon

Detroit Free Press

There he was again.

Detroit Tigers left-hander Tarik Skubal, one of the best pitchers in the organization, stood on the mound at Comerica Park and pitched live batting practice to his teammates for the second time in his journey back from last year’s flexor tendon surgery.

Skubal is expected to begin a rehab assignment at an affiliate in the minor leagues as the next activity in his return to the Tigers. The 26-year-old needs to complete four or five rehab starts before the Tigers contemplate reinstating him from the injured list.

“I feel really good right now,” Skubal said Tuesday. “I feel like I competed really well today, which I think is more important. I’m excited to start the rehab process and continue to stack good days on top of each other and hopefully be back here soon enough.”

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Skubal faced Andy Ibáñez, Jake Rogers and Nick Maton through two innings of live batting practice before Tuesday’s game, while teammates, coaches and front office staffers watched from behind home plate.

Nobody put a ball in play against him.

“He looks very much like the Tarik Skubal that we all expect,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said.

Skubal registered a 3.52 ERA with 32 walks and 117 strikeouts across 117⅔ innings in 21 starts last season. He had a 2.33 ERA in his first 11 starts and fired 17 scoreless innings in his final three starts.

He underwent flexor tendon surgery on Aug. 17, 2022.

“It felt like I had pitched, so that’s a good thing because I haven’t had that in a while,” Skubal said, reflecting on his recovery between the first and second live batting practices. “It’s a good thing to feel like that, but it definitely took a couple days to where I felt fresh again. It’s all good stuff, though, really good stuff.”

Manning making progress

Right-hander Matt Manning also took the mound Tuesday for his third bullpen in return from a right foot fracture.

Manning didn’t face live hitters, but Hinch said the 25-year-old emphasized “some of the throwing work” he has been focusing on behind the scenes with pitching coaches Chris Fetter, Robin Lund and Juan Nieves.

“I was like, ‘Damn, I haven’t pitched in Comerica (Park) in a long time,’ ” Manning said. “It felt good to get on the main mound and be in the moment and throw again, so it feels good.”

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The 2016 No. 9 overall pick posted a 4.63 ERA with three walks and seven strikeouts across 11⅔ innings in two starts before the injury. He fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot April 11 on a comebacker during the final pitch of his second start.

Manning will travel with the Tigers for their upcoming series against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. He is expected to throw to hitters in a live batting practice session over the weekend.

“Skubal is ahead of Manning,” Hinch said. “Hopefully, pretty soon, we can start to talk about getting (Skubal) into competition, getting him into a rehab assignment and things like that. But we need a little bit more information before we put that in pen, which will start with feeling good tomorrow.”

Other injury updates

• Right-hander Casey Mize (right elbow sprain, lumbar strain) resumed his throwing program Monday after resting for a week due to mild low back soreness. He is scheduled to play catch four times this week.

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• Right-hander Beau Brieske (right ulnar nerve entrapment) completed a live batting practice session in Lakeland, Florida, home of the Tigers’ spring training facility. He is scheduled to throw another live batting practice this week.

• Right-handed reliever Trey Wingenter (right biceps tendinitis) is scheduled to throw a bullpen Wednesday in Lakeland.

• Outfielder Kerry Carpenter (right shoulder sprain) played his third rehab game for Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday. He has served as the designated hitter for all three games and hasn’t been cleared to play the outfield.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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