Skubal works to develop Mize-like splitter

February 23rd, 2021

LAKELAND, Fla. -- was asked Tuesday if there was any aspect of fellow Tigers prospects and Minor League teammates Casey Mize and Matt Manning’s game that he wishes he could adopt into his own.

“If I could take Casey’s splitter -- that’s a pitch that I’m learning -- so if I could take Casey’s splitter and just add it right to my arsenal, I would really like that,” Skubal said.

It’s not quite that easy, but he’s working on it.

When Skubal visited Driveline in Seattle last month, he was searching for a changeup. The version he threw last year drew a 32.1 percent whiff rate and yielded a .231 batting average, according to Statcast, but it also had an average exit velocity of 89.7 mph when hitters put it in play. Two of the six hits Skubal allowed off the changeup were home runs.

If Skubal is going to get hitters off his fastball, which comprised 58.9 percent of his pitches in 2020, he needs an effective offspeed pitch.

“It just wasn’t the pitch that I wanted it to be,” Skubal said. “I just wasn’t getting the movement I wanted. When I went up there [to Driveline], I did two pitch design sessions. And the second one, they’re like, ‘Hey, we want you to try out a splitter.’”

Skubal, having seen Mize’s splitter up close, was understandably open to it. A couple hours later, he liked what he was seeing. It isn’t Mize’s splitter, at least not yet, but it’s something he can build on.

“I do want the depths that [Mize’s] pitch has, and the horizontal bite to it. I really want that,” Skubal said. “I want it to be a plus pitch by itself and not have to work off the fastball as much. So that’s kind of the goal of the splitter.”

Skubal threw it on Tuesday against a group of hitters that included veterans Robbie Grossman and JaCoby Jones and prospect Riley Greene. They were tracking pitches rather than swinging at their first live pitches of the spring, but they had positive words for the movement.

“Fastball’s up in the zone and then the splitter kind of playing off that -- they said those two pitches pair very nicely,” Skubal said. “And I love hearing that.”

Teheran signing becomes official
The Tigers officially announced their Minor League contract with , who will be in Major League camp as a non-roster invite once he clears the intake testing protocol. The 30-year-old will compete for a rotation spot.

“I like his track record,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Prior to last year, he was logging quite a few innings and [was] a pretty reliable starter at the Major League level. Obviously it adds to our competition and our depth, and we’re going to take a look at him.”

Teheran went 0-4 with a 10.05 ERA in nine starts and one relief appearance for the Angels last year after posting a 77-73 record and a 3.67 ERA over nine seasons in Atlanta, including six consecutive Opening Day starts.

“I think last year he had to battle through a few different things medically, [and] the ball wasn’t coming out the way it normally does,” Hinch said. “We feel like he’s healthy. We’ll see how effective he is, but he’s got a track record.”

Soto could join camp soon
Lefty Gregory Soto and right-hander José Ureña are in Lakeland and working out on their own, Hinch said, but they haven’t been cleared yet to enter the Tigertown facility. That could change soon; Soto could receive clearance in the next day or two, according to Hinch.

Quick hits
• Like Skubal, prospect Matt Manning threw his first session of live batting practice Tuesday. Among the hitters Manning faced was Miguel Cabrera, who tracked pitches before giving a nod of approval on his way out of the batting cage. “Bueno,” Cabrera told him.

• Niko Goodrum, who homered off Derek Holland last August in Pittsburgh when Holland started for the Pirates, homered off Holland again Tuesday in live BP with an impressive drive to left-center.

• Lefty prospect Joey Wentz threw off a mound Tuesday for a second time in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. It wasn’t a full bullpen session, but Wentz had notable effort behind his throws to a standing catcher.