The Tigers are going to move Tarik Skubal into a scheduled piggyback role for his next couple of outings, per Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. The Tigers could do the same with Casey Mize at some point during this season. Manager A.J. Hinch views the piggyback option as a way to avoid shutting down or demoting Skubal and Mize as they work with innings restrictions for their young hurlers.
The move, Hinch was careful to note, is not a demotion. Skubal has a 6.08 ERA in 13 1/3 innings so far this season, allowing 11 hits, four home runs, and nine walks against 12 strikeouts. The home runs are a concern, but Skubal also has a 15.0 percent groundball rate, a number that is sure to rise over time. Per the Athletic’s Cody Stavenhagen, Hinch said, “It’s not an indictment on where he’s at in our rotation or what we think of his first few starts. But it’s the plan we’re gonna put in place to be smart about our pitching resources throughout a six-month season.”
Skubal’s move to the pen actually comes prompted by a bit of good news: Spencer Turnbull will return to the rotation for his first start of the season on Wednesday. Turnbull had his season debut delayed because of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis in spring. The 28-year-old is coming off a strong 2020 in which he posted a 3.97 ERA/3.49 FIP over 56 2/3 innings. It was the first time Turnbull saw his ERA match his typically strong FIP. Turnbull will join Matthew Boyd, Mize, Jose Urena, and Michael Fulmer in the rotation, at least in the short-term. Detroit’s rotation has already lost Julio Teheran to injury after the veteran got the win in his first start as a Tiger.
When Turnbull joins the roster, another roster move will follow. McCosky suggests a pitcher will likely be demoted, with Joe Jimenez being one possibility. The 26-year-old right-hander has just two appearances so far this season, but he’s off to a rough start. The former All-Star has walked seven of 10 batters this season while being charged with five earned runs (despite not yielding a base hit). In fact, with two strikeouts also on the ledger, only one batter has put the ball in play with Jimenez toeing the rubber, an Aramis Garcia ground out. Both of Jimenez’s appearances this season have come against the Athletics. The Tigers will likely wait to make an official roster move until much closer to Turnbull’s Wednesday start.