4:32pm: Skubal is set to visit orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache next week, reports Chris McCosky of the Detroit News (Twitter link). The 25-year-old is alarmingly dealing with some form of elbow injury, although Hinch declined to speculate as to whether surgery was a possibility until the results of next week’s testing became apparent. McCosky adds that Skubal will not return to the mound in 2022 in any event.
3:03pm: The Tigers announced Friday that they’ve transferred lefty Tarik Skubal from the 15-day injured list to the 60-day injured list. The move opens a spot on the roster for lefty Daniel Norris, whose contract has been formally selected from Triple-A Toledo (as previously reported). It also casts doubt on whether Skubal will return at all in the 2022 season. Since he was placed on the 15-day IL on Aug. 2, there’s still technically time for him to get back for the final week of games in early October — but today’s move makes that look fairly unlikely.
It’s a fairly surprising shift for Skubal, who was placed on the injured list due to general arm fatigue. Skubal was lifted from his final start of the season after five efficient innings and downplayed any severity, telling the Tigers beat that he anticipated making his next start. Instead, it’s now possible that he won’t pitch in a game until next season. The Tigers didn’t provide any further updates on Skubal’s health beyond the move to the 60-day IL, though manager AJ Hinch will presumably divulge some additional context prior to tonight’s game.
If Skubal’s season is indeed over, it was a strong breakout year for the former top prospect. The 25-year-old will fall shy of last year’s 149 2/3 innings, but in the 117 2/3 frames he managed during the 2022 campaign, Skubal worked to a 3.52 ERA with a 24.5% strikeout rate, a strong 6.7% walk rate and a solid 45.7% grounder rate. Most importantly, he maintained the generally sharp strikeout and walk rates he’d displayed in 2021 while dramatically scaling back his home-run rate (2.11 HR/9 in 2021; 0.69 HR/9 in 2022). If Skubal can continue to miss bats, limit walks, keep the ball on the ground and limit home runs in this capacity, there’s room for even greater improvement (as evidenced by his hearty 2.97 FIP).
Whether there’s another gear for Skubal or this is roughly his peak output, he’s solidified himself as at least a quality mid-rotation option for Hinch in the coming years. Though there was talk of the Tigers being willing to at least listen to offers on the lefty before the Aug. 2 trade deadline, the Tigers would’ve required an exorbitant haul to part with him given that he’s still under team control for another four seasons beyond the current campaign. Given the current uncertainty regarding his arm, it’s difficult to imagine those talks being revisited this winter, as the Tigers — who’ll be operating under a new general manager after firing Al Avila yesterday — would be selling low on the heels of a lengthy IL stay.
As for what the Tigers’ rotation will look like moving forward, it’s practically anyone’s guess. Skubal joins Casey Mize and Spencer Turnbull (Tommy John surgery in both cases) as key rotation pieces on the 60-day injured list. The Tigers are currently also without Michael Pineda, Beau Brieske and Rony Garcia (injured list) and lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (rehabbing following a lengthy stay on the restricted list while dealing with a reported marital issue). That’s left the Tigers with Norris, Matt Manning, Tyler Alexander, journeyman Drew Hutchison and rookie Garrett Hill as options for the time being. With little certainty among that quintet, there figures to be additional rotation tumult in the final weeks of the year.