For the first time since 2006, a pitcher is making his Tigers debut as the team’s Opening Day starter. For the first time since 1959, a pitcher is making his Tigers debut as the Opening Day starter in Detroit.
Eduardo Rodriguez has some sneaky history on his hands as he prepares to take the mound against the White Sox on Friday afternoon at Comerica Park. But he also has his own history. He was on track to start on Opening Day last year before he had to be pushed back. He has the experience of pitching in pressure situations over six seasons and 153 starts with the Red Sox. He made four starts in the postseason, including one in the World Series.
“It’s something special,” he said last weekend. “I can’t wait to go up there. It will be fun.”
When asked what he knows about the atmosphere of Opening Day at Comerica Park, Rodriguez said he wants to experience it like someone just walking in.
“Nobody told me about it, and I don’t want anyone to tell me,” he said. “I want to see it for myself and enjoy it.”
In many ways, Rodriguez has been ready for Opening Day since the start of Spring Training. He not only threw an extended bullpen session on the first day of camp, he was spotting pitches in the zone with the cutout of a batter as a reference point. He then went out and tossed 17 innings over four solid Grapefruit League starts, posting a 19-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“I’m really proud in Spring Training that I had my command right away and I’ve got all my pitches right now,” Rodriguez said.
In many ways, Rodriguez set a standard for an otherwise young rotation to follow. Casey Mize looked like he was in regular-season form after a hard offseason of work. Tarik Skubal posted a 21-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 13 2/3 innings.
OUT OF LEFT FIELD
Jack White has been a rock star for more than 20 years. His first performance of the National Anthem will be on Opening Day at Comerica Park in his hometown of Detroit. He and his band will perform an instrumental version.
Good on the Tigers for devoting an extensive part of their Opening Day pregame festivities to remember Kimera Bartee, their former outfielder and coach who passed away suddenly just before Christmas. The team will introduce Bartee’s family and hold a moment of silence before his son Amari throws a ceremonial first pitch.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Tigers broke camp on Wednesday and headed north with their 28-man Opening Day roster ready. Some fun facts by the numbers:
3: Former Tigers Rule 5 Draft picks (Akil Baddoo, Rony Garcia, Victor Reyes)
2: Former No. 1 overall Draft picks (Mize, Torkelson)
2: Draft-eligible players who were undrafted (Foley, Jiménez)
The Tigers and Rays have made six trades in franchise history. Which Tigers All-Star was involved in the first?
A. Damion Easley
B. Robert Fick
C. Edwin Jackson
D. David Price
Ten years ago, the Tigers opened their season with a walk-off win over the Red Sox at Comerica Park. After Boston rallied for two runs in the top of the ninth off Jose Valverde, Austin Jackson hit a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the inning off Mark Melancon and past a diving attempt from Tigers nemesis Nick Punto to score Danny Worth.
C. The Tigers acquired Edwin Jackson from the Rays on Dec. 10, 2008, in exchange for Matt Joyce. Both players went on to become All-Stars — Jackson for the Tigers in 2009, Joyce for the Rays in 2011.
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