Flexor tendon surgery by Tarik Skubal
CLEVELAND — The injury bug that decimated the Tigers’ pitching staff has now hit the most important arm in their present and future. Southpaw Tarik Skubal, who went from ninth-round draft pick to front-row starter in the middle of a breakout season, underwent successful surgery on the flexor tendon in his left elbow.
Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed the procedure Wednesday at his practice in Los Angeles. No timeline has been announced for Skubal’s return, but the typical recovery period is between six and nine months.
If the procedure sounds familiar, it’s the same one former Tiger Matthew Boyd underwent in September, although his was performed by a different surgeon. Boyd, who was not introduced by the Tigers last offseason, is currently in rehab with the Mariners organization and is eyeing a potential late-season stint with Seattle. He suffered a setback earlier this summer. Still, it’s usually a quicker comeback schedule than Tommy John surgery, which involves ulnar collateral ligament replacement in the elbow.
Skubal’s procedure was initially exploratory before the root of the problem was found. He had been sidelined since leaving his Aug. 1 start in Minnesota with what was initially described as arm fatigue.
“It’s hard to be optimistic when one of your best players is having surgery,” manager AJ Hinch said. “The positive side is that we have a solution and there is no longer any lingering curiosity as to what caused the problem. I’m not a doctor, I’m a manager, but I like that he doesn’t “There was no singular event and all of a sudden it was some kind of massive tear. I don’t know what kind of repair it was. I can’t even begin to describe it. But when a respected doctor’s office says “operation successful and should make a perfect recovery, that’s enough for me.”
Skubal underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017 while pitching at Seattle University. His recovery was one of the reasons the Tigers were able to draft him in the ninth round in 2018, pairing him with Mize for a top pitching prospect brace.
Add Matt Manning and Faedo, and the Tigers have focused their rebuild on pitching, hoping to assemble a stingy rotation and have a surplus of weapons available to trade for hitting help. Injuries, including a shoulder problem that kept Manning out for most of this season, scuttled those plans and potentially contributed to Al Avila’s sacking as general manager on August 10.
With Skubal potentially out of Detroit’s plans for early 2023, the Tigers will enter the offseason with a potential rotation of Eduardo Rodriguez – who is expected to return from the shortlist on Sunday – Manning, Turnbull and Beau Brieske, who have increased by 27th draft pick in 2019 to a reliable starter this season, but he’ll likely miss the rest of this season with right biceps tendonitis.
Faedo should consider every time he returns from hip surgery. The same goes for Wentz, who is expected to get another audition in Detroit’s rotation after a few starts early in the season, and Garrett Hill, who launched a solid outing against the Guardians on Tuesday. Tigers prospects Wilmer Flores (No. 3 by MLB Pipeline) and Reese Olson (No. 9) could serve as insurance.
Whether that’s enough to help Detroit regain its competitiveness will be a decision for Hinch and the next general manager.
“We need to find a boss first before we worry about how we’re going to grow as an organization,” Hinch said. “Losing Tarik and Casey at any time I think obviously hurt our team and hurt our win. But again, there’s a lot to do before we start to assess where everyone fits in. They can be on different timelines, different surgeries, different recoveries, the ups and downs of it all, they’ll be an integral part of the Tigers when they’re healthy.