Tigers’ Eduardo Rodriguez hoping for WBC berth to help extend his workload entering 2023

Detroit News

Detroit — The Tigers will certainly be counting on having lefty Eduardo Rodriguez at the top of their rotation next season. He is on the books for $14 million in 2023, after all. But there may be some uncertainty about how heavy a workload he will be able to handle.

With his three-month stay on the restricted list, he’s made just 11 starts this season. Counting an additional four rehab starts, he’s thrown 72 innings. Conservatively, he could make six more starts before the end of the season.

If he averages six innings per outing, he will log a total of 108 innings this season.

Even though he’s a veteran and threw more than 200 innings in 2019 and 157⅔ last year, a typical 30% bump next year would still put him under 150 innings.

“We’ve done it both ways,” manager AJ Hinch said Friday. “We’ve had guys make big jumps (in innings pitched) and be fine and we’ve guys make big jumps and get hurt. We’ve had guys make small jumps and be fine and we’ve had guys make small jumps and get hurt.

“It’s an inexact science. You just do your best. Veteran players are generally more comfortable with the bigger jumps than teams usually are with younger pitchers.”

With the idea of adding some innings in the offseason, Rodriguez is hoping for a spot on Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic next spring.

“I was planning to play in the WBC,” he said. “The last time (2017) I played in my country to build up innings for the WBC.”

Rodriguez made four winter ball starts for Magallanes in 2017 to prep for the tournament. But he may not be cleared to pitch in Venezuela this winter.

“There are some issues with the team I play with in Venezuela,” he said. “If I got the chance to go to Venezuela, I will go. But I need to talk to them and see if I’m allowed to go.”

If he isn’t able to play winter ball, Rodriguez said he would ramp his offseason work in Miami to make sure he was ready.

“They haven’t asked me to play (in the WBC) yet,” he said. “But if they do ask me, I want to go. I want to represent my country.”

Execution, not exhaustion

Tigers reliever Alex Lange, as expected, chafed at the notion that he might be experiencing fatigue having pitched more innings (51⅓) and in more stressful situations than he has since he transitioned to the bullpen.

“No,” he said, flatly. “I’m ready to go. This is what you train for. To finish strong and have a great September.”

Fatigued or not, August has been a struggle for him. He’s allowed 14 runs in 11⅓ innings with opponents slugging .551 with a .937 OPS. In his first 44 games, opponents slugged .280 with a .575 OPS. He allowed two homers in his first 44 outings. He’s allowed three this month, one in each of his last two outings.

“If you leave pitches over the middle, they get hit in this league,” he said. “You’ve got to execute.”

Rangers’ Kole Calhoun drove a fastball into the seats in Texas last Sunday. On Wednesday, with the Tigers leading the Mariners 3-2 in the seventh inning, Lange got tagged with a triple by Adam Frazier and a two-run homer by Abraham Toro.

Both of those came off his money pitch, the curveball. A pitch that has held hitters to a .180 average with a 60% whiff rate.

“The breaking ball that got hit for the homer was on the bottom line of the strike zone, middle-middle,” Lange said. “The guy was sitting on it and he made a good swing. I’ve been playing against that guy (Toro) since A-ball. He was sitting on a breaking ball and he got to it.”

The fastball to Calhoun was supposed to be inside and drive him off the plate. Lange yanked it over the middle of the plate.

“You’ve got to make pitches,” he said. “I didn’t do that.”

No excuses, no panic, no major adjustments — just make better pitches.

“I’m not looking too far into it,” Lange said. “I’m not trying to overhaul or junk anything. This league comes down to execution. Late in the ballgame, I come in for a hold and didn’t execute. I got hit and gave up the game.

“I need to execute.”

Around the horn

Michael Pineda will make just his 11th start of the season Saturday. He may only make a couple more after that as the Tigers are likely to bring up some younger starters like Joey Wentz and Elvin Rodriguez for the final weeks.

Pineda will be a free agent again this winter, but he’s not worried about setting his market value.

“I’ve been pitching for a long time,” he said. “Everybody knows me. They know what I can do on the mound when I am healthy. I’m not focused on that. Right now my focus is just on pitching my last couple of games that I can start and go from there.”

… Jonathan Schoop (ankle) is expected to start his rehab stint this weekend, possibly at West Michigan. He will play game with Toledo next week with the hope that he can be activated and play in Kansas City next weekend.

cmccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

Royals at Tigers

First pitch: 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: BSD/97.1

SCOUTING REPORT

RHP Jonathan Heasley (2-7, 5.22), Royals: He’s been hit hard and frequently for much of the season. And he contributes to his problems with an 11% walk rate. His last three starts, covering 15 innings, he’s given up 15 hits and seven walks, limiting the damage to five earned runs.

RHP Michael Pineda (2-6, 5.27), Tigers: It’s been a chopped-up season for the veteran. He missed a month and a half with a broken finger. Then after five starts he went back on the IL with triceps soreness. He last pitched on July 23. In his three rehab starts at Toledo, opponents hit .297 against him but he struck out 13 with only one walk.

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