Eduardo Rodriguez taking first steps toward returning to Tigers this season

Detroit News

Detroit — The wheels have been set in motion, at last, for pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to work his way off the restricted list and back into the Tigers’ rotation.

General manager Al Avila announced before Saturday’s game that he and manager AJ Hinch had been in touch with Rodriguez and he’s begun a workout and throwing plan pitching coach Chris Fetter has designed for him.

“I talked to him yesterday and he expressed to me that he’s working hard and his personal situation is being taken care of,” Avila said. “At some point he’ll be over that and he’s looking forward to coming back and rejoining the team and helping us win.”

Rodriguez, whom the Tigers signed last winter for five years and $77 million, last pitched for the Tigers on May 18. He first went on the injured list with a rib cage sprain. Then on June 13, as he was about to be activated, he left the team citing personal issues and was subsequently placed in the restricted list — meaning he was on unpaid leave.

The personal issues were later revealed as marital in nature.

Early in July, Avila and Hinch said they hadn’t heard from Rodriguez or his agent. But, about 10 days ago, communications resumed.

“I’ve talked to him a couple of times,” Hinch said. “Initially, when we got back in town, I wanted to make sure he was OK and to check on his family. The second time we gave him the throwing program. He’s doing fine, tending to a lot of personal matters and spending time with his kids and getting them ready for school.

“We had to map out what he’s done, what he hasn’t done and where he needs to be by the time he’s ready to pitch at this level.”

Essentially, what Rodriguez needs to do is go through another full spring training. The process is going to be slow, but Avila and Hinch hope he can be back with the Tigers by the end of August.

“Right now he’s in south Florida,” Avila said. “He’s been working out on his own and now he’s doing the program Fett and AJ built for him. He will progress to Lakeland and throw bullpens and build himself up. He will pitch in Lakeland (in Low-A games) and then to Toledo.”

Avila said Rodriguez will remain on the restricted list and remain unpaid until he is activated and on the big-league roster.

“We signed him because he had a good, long track record of dependability on the mound,” Avila said when asked how comfortable he was with having Rodriguez on contract for four more years. “Unfortunately, he had a personal issue that he felt he needed to take care of at this point. We just have to move on from this.”

The Tigers will be extremely cautious with Rodriguez. Any setback would likely cost him the remainder of the season.

“We had good conversations,” Hinch said. “He’s upbeat and ready to go. Now it’s just the methodical nature of getting him ready to play at this level. … We have a long way to go. I’ve let our team know and we will take it day-by-day with the clubhouse and with him.

“But we’re looking forward to getting him back.”

Rodriguez has made eight starts this season, going 1-3 with a 4.38 ERA.

Twitter: @cmccosky

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