WASHINGTON, D.C. — Left-hander Tarik Skubal traveled with the Detroit Tigers for a road trip for the first time since the season-opening series against the Tampa Bay Rays coming out of spring training.
Joining the Tigers for the road trip means Skubal could be almost ready to face hitters for the first time since Aug. 1, 2022, when he exited his most recent MLB start with an arm injury that led to flexor tendon surgery.
"I think it does mean that," Skubal said. "I'm progressing the right way."
"We'll see," said Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, who wouldn't share the projected timetable for Skubal's upcoming rehab assignment. "We're just going to try to get through the next bullpen. Everybody wants to jump to what's next and how fast this can go, but we're just going to get to the next bullpen and reassess as we go."
The 26-year-old has completed six bullpens in his rehab program.
He will throw his seventh bullpen Saturday at Nationals Park, before the second game of the Tigers' three-game series against the Washington Nationals.
Skubal, known for a firm fastball and sharp slider, is throwing all of his pitches in bullpens and compared the experience to "riding a unicycle" as he regains the feel for his secondary pitches.
"He's on the trip because of the activity he's going to do on the trip, which includes a little more intense work," Hinch said. "We want it to be with Fett, Robin, Juan (pitching coach Chris Fetter, assistant pitching coaches Robin Lund and Juan Nieves). We'll do that with other guys as they start to ramp up a little more aggressively."
Skubal looks forward to working with Doug Bochtler, the Triple-A Toledo pitching coach, at some point in the near future. He doesn't know whether he will make his first rehab start in Low-A Lakeland or Triple-A Toledo.
"It's good to be with the team and throw bullpens with Fett and Robin here," Skubal said. "And then, obviously, whenever the rehab thing starts, I'll get to work with Boch. That'll be fun."
Skubal posted a 3.52 ERA with 32 walks and 117 strikeouts across 117⅔ innings in 21 starts last season. He has a 4.15 ERA with 318 strikeouts across 299 innings in his MLB career, which spans parts of three seasons.
Another familiar face joined the Tigers in the nation's capital.
Outfielder Kerry Carpenter, recovering from a right shoulder sprain, also traveled with the Tigers for the series against the Nationals, while Casey Mize (right elbow sprain, lumbar strain), Matt Manning (right foot fracture) and Spencer Turnbull (neck discomfort) stayed in Detroit.
Carpenter, 25, has completed fielding drills, batting practice and some light throwing activity.
"Not much distance, but I threw again today," Carpenter said.
Carpenter is hitting .217 with four home runs, five walks and 22 strikeouts in 20 games this season. He had a one-week setback in his rehab program because of "mild discomfort" while completing tee work.
The slugger suffered the shoulder injury April 27 while robbing a home run and crashing into the right-field wall at Comerica Park. The Tigers have not disclosed a timetable for his rehab assignment either.
"It's definitely progressing," Carpenter said.
Other medical updates
Right-handed reliever Freddy Pacheco, whom the Tigers claimed off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals in spring training, has suffered a setback in his rehab from a right elbow sprain. The 25-year-old reported right elbow soreness following Friday's bullpen in Lakeland, Florida.
He was designated for assignment by the Cardinals in spring training after suffering an elbow injury. After the latest elbow injury, Pacheco is scheduled to receive further medical evaluation from the Tigers.
The severity of the setback is unclear, but he was previously placed on the 60-day injured list. If it's a season-ending injury, he would need to be reinstated — thus occupying a spot on the 40-man roster — if the Tigers decided to keep him throughout the offseason.
Right-handed reliever Trey Wingenter (right biceps tendinitis) has shifted to Lakeland for his rehabilitation. He threw from 90 feet at the spring training facility Friday and will continue to build his throwing volume.
Seeing an old friend
Former Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario, non-tendered by the Tigers in November 2022, entered Friday's series opener hitting .253 with 12 doubles, five home runs, 12 walks and 35 strikeouts in 42 games for the Nationals.
The 29-year-old is hitting .667 (10-for-15) with one homer, one walk and one strikeout in his past four games. After the Tigers non-tendered him, he signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Nationals.
"Everybody loves Jeimer, so it doesn't surprise me in the least bit that he found a home and is contributing quite well," Hinch said. "I know he's coming off a really big series, which is good for him, not so much for us. It'll be good to see him."
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Rehabbing starter Tarik Skubal joined Detroit Tigers on road trip