LAKELAND, Fla. -- Lefty prospect Tarik Skubal was an all-conference pitcher at the University of Seattle and a Top 100 MLB Draft prospect two years ago. He’s MLB Pipeline’s 46th-ranked prospect overall. In that respect, Skubal should be expected to pitch well against a college team, including an NAIA title
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Lefty prospect Tarik Skubal was an all-conference pitcher at the University of Seattle and a Top 100 MLB Draft prospect two years ago. He’s MLB Pipeline’s 46th-ranked prospect overall. In that respect, Skubal should be expected to pitch well against a college team, including an NAIA title contender.
Still, the way Skubal, ranked as Detroit's No. 4 prospect, shut down Southeastern College for two innings in the Tigers' 5-4 exhibition win on Friday afternoon was impressive, and showed all the reasons why he skyrocketed up prospect rankings by the end of last season.
It certainly impressed manager Ron Gardenhire. At one point, he said, he gestured from the dugout to general manager Al Avila, who was sitting in the stands behind home plate. Gardenhire pointed to Skubal and jokingly gestured to ask if he could bring him up.
“I guess I won’t win out on that one right away,” Gardenhire said.
Still, with a fastball that topped out at 98 mph, plus breaking pitches with life, Skubal might not be far off.
Skubal, who fell to the Tigers with their ninth-round pick in the 2018 Draft, struck out five in a row after inducing a groundout to the right side to begin Friday's game. He came within a pitch of an immaculate second inning, striking out Nick Bottari and Abdel Guadalupe, and putting Nolan Machibroda in an 0-2 count.
“I did know,” Skubal said afterwards. “That curveball I threw high was the worst spot I could’ve thrown it. I would’ve rather spiked it. Just didn’t quite have the grip on it, left it up.”
Skubal struck out Machibroda on the next pitch. He threw 18 of his 22 pitches for strikes, many with a fastball that sat at 95-96 mph before ramping up to 98. Unlike in past seasons, the pitch readings at Joker Marchant Stadium this spring come from the Trackman system rather than just a radar gun.
Skubal was essentially playing catch after the second batter on, not just for the strikeouts, but for his pace. He was pretty much ready to throw within moments after getting the ball back from catcher Eric Haase.
“I like to keep my tempo up,” Skubal said. “I don’t know, that’s just the way I like to pitch: Go, go, go.”
Said Gardenhire: “Well, why wouldn’t you? If you’ve got that kind of stuff, I think I would be standing up there, too, saying, ‘Give me the ball.’”
Gardenhire would like Skubal to go with him to Detroit when camp breaks, no doubt. That won’t happen, but if Skubal opens the season at Triple-A Toledo as expected, he won’t be far off.
“He’s got good stuff, he’s composed, the whole package, from what we’ve seen and all the reports,” Gardenhire said. “All the people [have been] telling me, ‘You’re really going to like this guy.’ Once I saw him in the bullpens and doing drills, moving around pretty good, he’s a pretty professional kid with great stuff.”
Former Tigers reliever Victor Alcantara received an 80-game suspension without pay from Major League Baseball on Friday after testing positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance, in violation of MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Alcantara is a free agent. The Tigers dropped him from their 40-man roster at the end of last season, following three seasons and 79 appearances with the club. The 26-year-old right-hander went 3-2 with a 4.85 ERA for Detroit last season, allowing 45 hits -- eight of them home runs -- over 42 2/3 innings with 15 walks and 24 strikeouts.
• The Tigers won Friday’s exhibition on a Daniel Pinero walk-off single. It marked their only lead of the afternoon, having twice rallied from two-run deficits.
• Look for Miguel Cabrera and other Tigers regulars to get two at-bats each in Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies, Gardenhire said. They’ll likely get more playing time on Sunday, when the Tigers have split-squad games at the Braves and Pirates.
• Catcher Jake Rogers is expected to miss the next 2-3 days with back stiffness, Gardenhire said. Rogers was originally expected to start Friday’s exhibition.
Miguel Cabrera and the rest of the Tigers regulars will make their 2020 spring debuts on Saturday as the Tigers host the Phillies at 1:05 p.m. ET in Grapefruit League action at Joker Marchant Stadium. Cabrera has been slugging like his old form in workouts after slimming down this offseason, but he has yet to face live pitching. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann gets the start opposite Philadelphia's Nick Pivetta. Listen live on 97.1 FM in Detroit or online with MLB Gameday Audio.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.