‘Everything was perfect’: Tigers, Eduardo Rodriguez encouraged by live BP session

Detroit News

Detroit — Eduardo Rodriguez was feeling generous.

“He hit two ground balls, so I have to give him one of those for a hit,” he said, smiling. “The second baseman was playing too far over on the one.”

The banter between Rodriguez and Jonathan Schoop was entertaining Saturday afternoon, but Rodriguez’s 50-pitch, three-inning live bullpen was exceptionally encouraging.

“He looked like he didn’t miss a beat,” said Riley Greene, who was one of the four hitters who stepped in against Rodriguez.

Greene and Akil Baddoo, both left-handed hitters who are working their way off the injured list, stood in the box tracking pitches without swinging. Right-handed hitting Schoop and lefty Kerry Carpenter both took their hacks. Schoop was the only hitter of the group to get solid contact — a flyout to the track in left-center and two ground balls up the middle.

“He was hitting his spots,” Greene said. “He looked really good, same as he always looks when I am watching him from center field. I feel like, that’s E-Rod.”

Rodriguez, on the injured list with a ruptured pulley in his left index finger since May 29, has seemed ahead of the early timetable projections, which were anywhere from six to eight weeks. If he stays on his current track without any setbacks, it’s conceivable he could be back in the rotation before the All-Star break.

“I don’t know if I feel like I’m ahead or not, but I’m just happy that I’m throwing live BP and I don’t feel nothing in the finger and my body feels perfect,” Rodriguez said. “It really can’t be better than that.”

Manager AJ Hinch was among the throng of coaches, players and staff members who watched the session from behind the plate. He said no decisions would be made on what’s next until they see how the finger responds in the next day or two.

“That was encouraging,” Hinch said. “He’s said all along that he wanted to push it pretty hard. But that was a display of normalcy for him, which is good.”

Hinch said Rodriguez will need to make at least one rehab start. Whether that’s the next step or not will be determined by doctors.

“A veteran player’s voice is important but the doctor’s voice is more important,” Hinch said. “We’ve gone to great lengths to get as much information as we can and do as much research as we can. We’re going to combine a lot of people’s voices, and certainly the player’s is included.

“But this is complicated because there aren’t a ton of cases like this and the ones that are out there are all over the map. We’re going to combine some expertise from outside this operation. But as long as there isn’t any swelling, that will be a great indication and then we will start to make some plans.”

Rodriguez threw 20 pitches in the first inning and then 15 in the second and third. He sat in the dugout for about three minutes between innings.

“It was just a good live BP,” he said. “I threw all of my pitches. Everything was working the right way. Everything was perfect — feeling-wise, body-wise, shoulder-wise, finger-wise. Everything was right where I wanted it.”

Again, this is a best-case scenario, but if Rodriguez comes through the post-live BP session with no issues and he makes a rehab start next week when Triple-A Toledo is in Columbus, he could be activated and back in the rotation before the All-Star break.

“Everything is up to the doctors,” Rodriguez said. “Whatever the doctors say is what we’re going to do. I feel good. This (the live BP) was the step we were going to take today. Now I have to get with the doctors to see what is going to be next.”

The irony of it all is, Rodriguez, with the opt-out in his contract after this season, would be getting back in time to hasten the likelihood that he’s traded before the trade deadline (Aug. 1). He’d posted a 2.13 ERA and a 0.975 WHIP in 11 starts before the injury.

If he can show that he’s healthy and back in form, he would be one of the top starting pitchers on the market.

Twins at Tigers

First pitch: 12:10 p.m. Sunday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: BSD/97.1


RHP Bailey Ober (4-4, 2.83), Twins: He’s allowed three earned runs or less in 10 of his 11 starts. Opponents are hitting .218 against him with a low hard-hit rate of 34%. His 7.5-feet of extension on his four-seam is in the top 1 percentile of baseball, making his 91-mph fastball play up considerably. He’s been far nastier on left-handers (.197), a function of his changeup (which is limiting all hitters to a .169 average). He will throw it too right-handed hitters, too, successfully (1-for-16 with seven strikeouts).

RHP Michael Lorenzen (2-5, 4.00), Tigers: He bulldogged his way through six strong innings against the Royals Tuesday night, allowing just one run with seven strikeouts. His changeup, again, was sneaky effective. His ability to tunnel the changeup and his four-seam fastball kept hitters guessing incorrectly. The two pitches come out of the same arm slot — the heater stays on plane through the zone, the changeup fades late. The Royals took 11 fastballs for strikes.


Twitter: @cmccosky

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