Detroit — When Eduardo Rodriguez was coming up in the Red Sox system, Pedro Martinez, the Hall of Famer, was a special assistant to general manager Ben Cherington and he spent a lot of time with the organization’s young pitching prospects.
As he talked to the media Tuesday morning about facing his former team for the first time, Rodriguez could hear Martinez in his ear.
“Every time I step on the mound, it can be against my father, my mother, my brother, whoever — if somebody steps in that box against me, I’m going to strike them out,” said Rodriguez, who will face his former team for the first time Wednesday. “I’m going to get them out. That’s the way I see it, that’s the way I learned it.
“As soon as I step between the lines, no matter who is in there, I’ve got to strike them out or get an out.”
Martinez, who played for five different teams and thus pitched against a lot of former teammates, pounded that into his head.
“Friends are for outside of those lines,” Rodriguez said. “When you step between those lines, they are just another team and I have to get guys out.”
That’s the competitor speaking, though. On a human level, it goes deeper than that. How could it not? He grew up in the Red Sox organization, pitched seven seasons in that uniform and won a World Series with several of the players he will face on Wednesday.
“Everything I’ve been through over there, the World Series, my first start, my first full season in the big leagues, my teammates, the fans — it means a lot in my heart,” Rodriguez said. “It’s part of my life, part of my history. It’s something I am never going to forget.”
Rodriguez spent time with several of the Red Sox players before the game Monday and shared a big hug with manager Alex Cora.
“It’s going to be weird, to be honest with you,” Cora said. “Probably the first guy I managed that we’re going to face. I don’t remember any of the guys in ’18 pitching against us, right? Obviously, they have relationships, they respect him.
“Some guys, he meant so much to them and the organization. We knew that this day was going to come. We didn’t know it was going to happen so quick.”
Rodriguez wasn’t looking to leave Boston, but he had an asking price in free agency this winter and the Tigers met it — five years, $77 million.
“He got his dream come true, right?” Cora said. “Get that big money and support his family. Obviously he probably would have loved to stay here but it just didn’t work out. We’re very proud of him, but tomorrow we’ve got to kick his (butt).”
Rodriguez said taking care of his family was paramount this offseason.
“All of this is a business,” he said. “You make the decisions you’ve got to make. I did it for my family. Now I am here. I am with this team, this organization.”
As always when brothers compete against each other, there are no secrets. The Red Sox know how Rodriguez works and he knows their hitters’ strengths and weaknesses.
“It’s going to come down to who makes the right guess,” he said. “If you ask me who I’m going to be excited to face, I’m going to say (Xander) Bogaerts. He’s been my friend, been like a brother to me as long as I’ve known him.
“He’s one I can’t wait to face.”
Bogaerts told the Boston Globe on Monday that it didn’t surprise him that Rodriguez signed with the Tigers.
“Eddie was more than my teammate. He was a good friend,” he said. “I’m glad for him. I wasn’t surprised that he wanted to come here. He wants to be a teacher like others were for him.
“This will be good for him and his family. He needed a fresh start in my opinion.”
Rodriguez, by nature, is calm. He doesn’t excite easily. There was no discernible difference in his anxiety level pitching the season opener in Detroit or before any of his spring training starts.
His current manager said not to be fooled by the placid exterior.
“There’s always a little edge to you when you face your former team,” AJ Hinch said. “I don’t think a lot gets him rattled but don’t confuse quiet with lack of intensity or ease of action for a lack of competitiveness. He will be dialed in. He will want to beat those guys.
“But I think next week when he faces the Yankees, he’s going to want to beat them, too.”
A Miggy story
You might remember last season when Rodriguez, then pitching for the Red Sox, swiped Miguel Cabrera’s bat and took it into the Boston clubhouse.
“It was just making fun of him,” Rodriguez said, laughing. “Every time we faced each other, we try to make fun of each other. When Victor (Martinez) was here, especially, just tried to have fun every time. I picked up the bat and after the game I wanted to give it to him and have him sign it for me and say, ‘Because I got you out with that bat.’”
A Tigers bat boy ended up retrieving the bat and returning it to Cabrera.
“I was so mad that day,” Rodriguez said, laughing. “But now it’s better because I’m going to get another bat and wait until he gets 3,000 (hits). He can sign it with 500 homers and 3,000 hits.”
Around the horn
Hinch said before the game Tuesday that left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin was still feeling some tightness in his groin during a bullpen session in Lakeland Monday.
“I don’t think he’s going to be necessarily racing to the next assignment,” Hinch said. “We’ll put a little more on his plate over the course of the week but there’s no schedule outing. It’s going to be a little slower rise there.”
Red Sox at Tigers
►First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit
►RHP Nathan Eovaldi (0-0, 5.40), Red Sox: He struck out seven Yankees in his first start of the season but was victimized by two home runs. His fastball velocity averaged 98 mph and he mixed an assortment of secondary pitches (curves, sliders, splitters and cutters).
►LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-0, 6.75), Tigers: His Tigers debut was spoiled by an unusually disciplined approach by the White Sox and a tight strike zone called by umpire Marvin Hudson. The result, Rodriguez threw a lot of pitches (83), got in hitter-friendly counts and ended up lasting just four innings (three runs).