Detroit Tigers lose to Orioles; Eduardo Rodriguez throws 83 pitches in final spring start

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers lost to the Baltimore Orioles, 2-0, on Saturday at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, falling to 5-8 (with two ties) in Grapefruit League play.

The game ended with two outs in the top of the sixth inning due to rain.

“We accomplished everything but getting Willi (Castro) a couple innings in left field,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “That was the goal in the second half of the game. … All in all, a really good workday for us.”

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What happened

Making his final spring training start, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez looked masterful in his five-plus innings. He departed from his outing after giving up a leadoff single to Richie Martin in the sixth.

“Eduardo was really good,” Hinch said. “He’s ready to go.”

Both Baltimore runs were charged to Rodriguez, but only one of them — a solo home run by Kelvin Gutierrez in the fifth inning — occurred with the Tigers’ Opening Day starter on the mound.

In the sixth, Martin scored on an RBI single from Ramon Urias against right-handed reliever Will Vest. After Urias’ single, there was a 13-minute rain delay before the teams decided to end the contest.

Starting out

Rodriguez, who appears well-prepared for the opener, allowed two runs on three hits and one walk across five innings. He struck out eight batters, throwing 55 of 83 pitches for strikes.

His next start is April 8 against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park.

“Nobody has told me about that yet,” Rodriguez said of his expectations for the atmosphere in Detroit on Opening Day. “And I don’t want anybody to tell me. I want to see it for myself.”

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He punched out all three opponents in the second, sending down Urias, Ryan McKenna and Gutierrez in order. All three strikeouts were produced by upper-80s cutters, with Urias and McKenna swinging and missing.

Rodriguez also struck out one batter in the first inning, two batters in the fourth and two batters in the fifth. The 28-year-old finished his four spring starts with a 3.71 ERA, two walks and 19 strikeouts in 17 innings.

“I had my command right away, and I got all my pitches right now,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what makes me proud about spring training.”

For his 83 pitches, Rodriguez used 39 four-seam fastballs (47%), 18 cutters (22%), 15 changeups (18%), seven sinkers (8%) and four sliders (5%). He earned seven swings and misses: two four-seamers, two cutters and three changeups. He also had 21 called strikes — 14 with his fastball.

His fastball averaged 92.8 mph.

“He’s really good at pitch execution,” Hinch said. “And Tucker Barnhart is pretty good behind the plate, too. That combo, I’ve been very happy with. I always hesitate to talk about personal catchers, but that’s a combo you’ll see quite a bit.”

At the plate

The Tigers didn’t score and recorded just five hits.

Outfielder Victor Reyes — the Opening Day center fielder in Riley Greene’s absence — went 2-for-2 against Orioles left-hander John Means. He singled in the second inning and doubled in the fifth.

Means, the Orioles’ Opening Day starter, tossed 4⅔ scoreless innings with one strikeout.

Robbie Grossman, Jeimer Candelario and Dustin Garneau each picked up one hit. All three players have made the Tigers’ roster.

On the mound

Replacing Rodriguez, righty reliever Jason Foley logged two outs in the sixth inning. He struck out Chris Owings with a 94.3 mph sinker and got Anthony Santander to pop out to second baseman Jonathan Schoop on two pitches.

But Foley walked Trey Mancini — his final batter — on nine pitches. He threw 10 of 16 pitches for strikes.

Three stars

1. Rodriguez, 2. Reyes, 3. Foley.

Next up

Sunday vs. Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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