Tarik Skubal and the Tigers grapple with growing trade rumors


TORONTO – Tarik Skubal came down the dugout steps after a frustrating 39-pitch fourth inning Wednesday. He stood by the bench and threw down his glove. Then a green Gatorade mug. Then his hat. Then a plastic bottle. With the Padres’ television cameras on him, Skubal grabbed another small plastic bottle. He took a drink, and just when he seemed to have calmed down, he slammed that bottle as well. He ricocheted and narrowly missed rookie Riley Greene in the face.

These are the frustrations that can come with this game.

“It’s good to let it out,” Skubal said later. “But it’s not right where I did it.” Usually I go into the tunnel, and that’s where I go to vent those frustrations.

Skubal, however, has faced frustrations on many levels in recent days. Tuesday, Athleticism‘s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Tigers have told opposing teams that Skubal is available in trade talks. Because the Tigers are out of contention and because their roster has so few established hitters, virtually no one is off limits.

The Tigers are nowhere near ready to trade Skubal, but his name has come up enough for several league executives to talk about it. Still, the chances of Skubal being dealt with at next week’s deadline seem, for now, slim. The Tigers should get a royal ransom for parting ways with their young southpaw, the ninth-round pick who became the top pitcher in an originally pitching-centric rebuild.

But Skubal saw the story, heard the rumors. He was clearly pissed off.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” Skubal said Wednesday. ” I will not do it. I will also keep these (thoughts) to myself.

Skubal went six innings and allowed two unearned runs Wednesday in a Tigers win over the Padres. After that tough fourth inning — which included Harold Castro throwing a pop fly into fetid territory in a 13-pitch battle with Manny Machado that ended in a walk — Skubal came back for the fifth inning and pitched well, his emotions seemingly back in check after dugout dusting.

“Can you feel it?” manager AJ Hinch joked after the game. “Did the building shake? Because the dugout did.

On his locker postgame, Skubal was asked if he was motivated to come back after the fourth and provide more innings for his team.

“Honestly, I had another motivation as well,” Skubal said.

What was this other motivation?

“I’ll keep it to myself,” he said.

It was unclear if Skubal was referring to trade rumors or something else. Skubal raised his eyebrows at the end of his interview, when he paused before letting it be known he had more to say.

“Also, one more thing: I would also like to thank our fans for this homestand,” Skubal said. “They were f——ing phenomenal. Be sure to get this. It was a good environment. … They were right there every game. The season hasn’t gone the way we wanted, but they keep showing up.

The Tigers indeed had good weekend crowds at the last homestand, with Saturday’s attendance at 34,205. Wednesday’s game drew 24,669 spectators and drew an engaged crowd despite a rain delay ahead of the first throw. On Tuesday, however, a 6-4 Tigers loss ended with members of a sparse and likely soaked crowd chanting “Deeetroit Basketball” – a nod to the Detroit Pistons. Throughout that night, more sporadic chants of “Fire Al” could be heard from small sects of the Comerica Park crowd. In a small grassroots uproar, a few fans in the right field bleachers hoisted signs expressing their contempt for Tigers general manager Al Avila.

So, with everything going on – A nod to the chants? An early farewell? Some kind of other encrypted message? – a journalist told Skubal that people might read his comments.

“Good,” Skubal said. “I thought it was a fun environment to play in. It was fun. So that’s sort of where the cry comes from.

Thursday in Toronto, a day away from an interesting interview, Skubal said. He’s said more than once that he’s been candid about the crowd – he said he just wanted to thank the fans for still supporting the Tigers despite a losing season. He was adamant there was nothing more.

As for trade negotiations? Well, Skubal clearly doesn’t like to be involved in gossip.

Although his name has been broadcast around the league, the odds of the Tigers closing Skubal or All-Star Gregory Soto are considered low.

It’s more likely the Tigers will attempt to trade a few of their other bullpen pieces — with Michael Fulmer, Andrew Chafin and Joe Jiménez being three names to watch — in the coming days.

“We all probably read a little too much and read a lot of different things,” Hinch said. “There are a lot of curiosities. … I tried to refocus our guys. Number one, our goal tonight is to play the Blue Jays, and number two, the only reason people talk about us is because we didn’t win.

Hinch said he started getting more questions from players regarding trades and the rumour. That’s how things are at this time of year, a business reality and an even harsher reality that comes with playing on a losing team.

“I’m just trying to make sure our guys realize we put ourselves in this situation,” Hinch said. “We have to deal with the stress, the anxiety, the curiosity and the reality that if I was on the outside and had a club in contention, I would also have a few pieces that I wanted here. “

(Photo: Raj Mehta/USA Today)

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