Detroit Tigers’ Eduardo Rodriguez to start Opening Day vs. Chicago White Sox

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Detroit Tigers left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is tabbed for the first Opening Day start of his career.

Tigers manager AJ Hinch informed Rodriguez of this before MLB’s 99-day lockout, which began Dec. 2 and concluded March 10. The skipper made his decision official before Friday’s Grapefruit League opener at Joker Marchant Stadium.

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The Tigers start the regular season April 8 against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park.

“(Rodriguez is) going to be the Opening Day starter,” Hinch said Friday. “We’ll name that from the get-go. He’s got four starts to get ready. The only thing that can change that is a hiccup in the program. I worry about rain. I worry about a lot of different things in the next 20 days. But we lined him up on purpose that way, for him to be the Opening Day starter.”

In November, the Tigers signed Rodriguez to a five-year, $77 million contract. The 28-year-old has pitched six seasons for the Boston Red Sox in his career, winning the 2018 World Series and finishing sixth in 2019 Cy Young voting.

Rodriguez was supposed to start Boston’s Opening Day in 2021, but he was scratched with a dead arm in late March. He also missed the entire 2020 season after being diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart.

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In 2019, Rodriguez posted a 19-6 record with a 3.81 ERA, 75 walks and 213 strikeouts over 203⅓ innings in 34 starts. He went 13-8 in 2021, logging a 4.74 ERA with 47 walks and 185 strikeouts across 157⅔ innings in 32 games (31 starts).

Rodriguez has a career 4.16 ERA in 159 games.

“He’s been on the biggest stage,” Hinch said. “He’s the most veteran starting pitcher.”

Here’s the order of the remaining starting pitchers: Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning and Tyler Alexander. The Tigers are active on the free agent and trade markets in search of another starting pitcher.

“He’s very approachable and very engaging,” Hinch said of Rodriguez. “We’re developing a really good team environment, and he fits perfectly in that. I haven’t seen any arm-over-the-shoulder mentorship yet, but just presence and being approachable goes a long way.”

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Before Rodriguez, the four most recent Opening Day starters for the Tigers were Justin Verlander (2009-14, 2016-17), David Price (2015), Jordan Zimmermann (2018-19) and Matthew Boyd (2020-21).

A memorable gift

During the Tigers’ team meeting Friday morning, right-handed pitcher Spencer Turnbull, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, presented a gift to catcher Eric Haase.

Turnbull gave Haase a Rolex watch — a sign of gratitude for catching his no-hitter May 18 against the Seattle Mariners.

“Spencer had come to me a couple days ago when he got here and wanted to present Eric Haase with a gift for the no-hitter, which is a great gesture,” Hinch said. “It’s customary. It’s kind of how the inner-workings of a baseball team work.

“In our team meeting, we had a video. We walked through some of the highlights and watched the whole ninth inning together. And the Bull presented him with a Rolex. That was a cool moment for Spencer to say thanks to his catcher and the group to relive a really cool game.”

Javy Baez update

Shortstop Javier Baez was not in the Tigers’ lineup, or available off the bench, for Friday’s Grapefruit League opener vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, though he was in the clubhouse and participated in baseball activities.

The 29-year-old will start at shortstop Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton and serve as the designated hitter Sunday against the New York Yankees in Tampa.

Lineup construction

As for the batting order, Hinch plans to iron out the details in the last week of spring training.

“The big question is, where does Baez hit?” Hinch said. “Being very honest, does Riley (Greene) make the team? Does Tork (Spencer Torkelson) make the team? Who’s our extra infielder? I have a general idea of what I’m going to do with Baez, but it changes everything when you add a big bat like that in the middle of the order somewhere.

“I’m going to either have to slide Candy (Jeimer Candelario) up or slide him down, slide (Jonathan) Schoop up or slide him down. Generally speaking, the top half of the order is going to be somewhat similar to the guys last year, but insert Baez, and it changes things.”

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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