PHOENIX — Rookie left-hander Tyler Skaggs was optioned to the minor leagues after he struggled to find his rhythm against the Padres on Saturday, but it was not the erratic performance that did him in.
With Brandon McCarthy feeling good after his 85-pitch rehab start at Class AAA Reno on Friday, the D-backs needed a place for McCarthy in the stating rotation, and Skaggs’ spot was a natural landing point, regardless of what was to happen Saturday.
Skaggs can take some solace in the fact that the Padres did not exactly pound him in their 12-3 victory at Chase Field, which broke the D-backs’ two-game winning streak and dropped them 1 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.
The Padres waited him out, then took advantage.
Skaggs walked five, and all of them scored, technically. One was erased on a fielder’s choice, but the walk started things off.
San Diego scored four runs on one hit in the third inning, when Skaggs suddenly lost the plate after getting the first two outs of the inning. Of his next 16 pitches, 13 were balls, leading to three walks and a hit by pitch, and the last walked forced in a run. A bases-loaded double by Yonder Alonso followed to make it 5-1, and Skaggs’ day was done after another walk and a two-out homer by Chris Denorfia in the fourth.
“Just not a good outing,” Skaggs said.
So McCarthy, if he continues to recover well, will rejoin the rotation in Boston, manager Kirk Gibson said, after Ian Kennedy, Wade Miley and Randall Delgado tackle the first three games of the road trip in Tampa and Texas.
The D-backs have seen ups and downs out of Skaggs this season, and they might have expected command issues to be less of an issue he’s gotten more innings. He has shown brilliance at times, as in his first start in his third trip up, a 5-0 victory over the Rockies on July 5 in which he gave up three hits, walked one and struck out five in eight innings.
He had walked only 10 in 35 innings in his six previous starts, so Saturday was an aberration in that regard. That he could stop the snowball in the third inning was a bit concerning.
“You get guys on base and it pressure on you, and you could see by his mannerisms that he feels it a little bit,” Gibson said. “He’s had problems with that last year when he came up. He pitched well, but as he progressed, he didn’t pitch as well.”
Skaggs’ big-breaking curveball in the 73-76 mph range already is above major league average, and he got all five of his strikeouts on that pitch Saturday. The next phase in his development is to become a reliable strike thrower, like Randall Delgado was in his 10-0 shutout Friday, and to find a way to slow the game down and let it come to him. He knows it.
“It’s probably one of the hardest things to do in sports. It’s really, really tough,” said Skaggs, who turned 22 two weeks ago.
“He just gets a little bit too excited some times,” said catcher Miguel Montero, who returned to the lineup with a home
run and a single after missing four games with a stiff lower back. “He’s a young kid. He’s in the learning process. He wants to be so perfect, he puts too much pressure on himself. That’s not gong to help him. You have to relax a little bit. You have to make one pitch at a time. That’s when you are gong to get out of the jam.
“When you are trying to make one pitch and get three outs, that’s tough to do.”
Skaggs’ velocity ticked down a notch or two as the game progressed, and the D-backs have noticed that trend. They are exploring why.
“I don’t know why, but it seems as if it goes down as the game goes on. He says he feels fine. We’ve talked about how his arm feels, how his shoulder feels. We’ve looked at how he does his in-between-start thing,” Gibson said.
In the grand scheme, there is plenty to like about Skaggs, who has made four trips to the major leagues this season as a spot starter.
“To be fair, we’ve thrown a lot on him,” Gibson said. “It’s part of his development. We’d want him to be better. He’d want him to be better, but he has a good future ahead of him. His breaking ball is wipeout.” Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter