Eduardo Rodriguez ‘feels ready’ to join Detroit Tigers after rehab start with Toledo

Detroit Free Press

DENVER — It didn’t take long for left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to inform the Detroit Tigers about how he felt coming out of his first start with Triple-A Toledo in his rehab assignment.

There probably won’t be another rehab start.

Rodriguez sent a positive text message to pitching coach Chris Fetter after Thursday’s 58-pitch outing with the Mud Hens. If the Tigers active him, he will start at some point in the upcoming series against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park.

“He feels ready,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said before Friday’s series opener against the Colorado Rockies. “He’s heading back to Detroit and will be there waiting for us when we get back. We’ll see where it takes us.”

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Rodriguez, returning from a left index finger pulley rupture, pitched 4⅓ scoreless innings — allowing three hits and one walk — with four strikeouts, throwing 41 of 58 pitches for strikes.

The 30-year-old threw 34 four-seam fastballs (59%), nine sinkers (16%), seven cutters (12%), four sliders (7%) and four changeups (7%). His four-seam fastball averaged 93.1 mph, an increase from his pre-injury average of 92.1 mph.

“I was encouraged that he was able to hold his stuff,” Hinch said. “His velocity was good. His endurance was better than expected. We got him into the fifth inning, which was the A-plus situation. All signs are pointing towards him being ready.”

Rodriguez will throw a bullpen Saturday at Comerica Park. Barring any setbacks, he should be activated to start for the Tigers. The three-game series against the Athletics runs from Tuesday through Thursday.

Left-hander Tarik Skubal, who has completed five rehab starts in his return from flexor tendon surgery, appears on track to start against the Athletics, too. The 26-year-old posted a 1.23 ERA with three walks and 20 strikeouts across 14⅔ innings for High-A West Michigan (two starts) and Triple-A Toledo (three starts).

Skubal stayed with Mud Hens and threw a bullpen Friday.

He will be evaluated Monday at Comerica Park.

“Our rotation has been thinned out for a couple of reasons, but it looks like it’s becoming more and more whole as we go,” Hinch said. “We haven’t announced the rotation against Oakland a reason, but we’re encouraged by his last outing.”

Beginning next week, the Tigers’ five-man starting rotation could feature Rodriguez, Skubal, Reese Olson, Michael Lorenzen and Matt Manning.

The influx of returning players is encouraging as the Tigers prepare to enter the second half of the season. Entering Friday’s game, the Tigers are four games behind the Minnesota Twins for first place in the American League Central.

“I think it just gives me a little bit more of a plan,” Hinch said. “Any manager is going to want some of the best guys on your team to get back. Riley (Greene) and (Akil) Baddoo are about to start their rehab assignments, and other guys are in the middle of it. We can start to make a few plans in pencil.

“The way our luck has gone over the last couple of years, I want to write it in pencil until I definitely see them in person, in front of me, ready to go. Then, I will believe it. But I love the fact that we’re getting healthier in the early part of July. I would love to be fully healthy by the All-Star break. That’s the dream.”

‘About to start their rehab assignments’

As for the left-handed hitting outfielders, Baddoo will begin a rehab assignment over the weekend with Triple-A Toledo. The 24-year-old ran the bases Friday and could play in games as soon as Saturday.

Baddoo is recovering from a right quad strain.

“Akil is ahead of Riley in terms of game action,” Hinch said.

Riley Greene, the Tigers’ best player on offense, needs to complete a return-to-play running progression before beginning his rehab assignment. He is recovering from a left fibula stress reaction.

The 22-year-old joined Triple-A Toledo on Thursday, along with Baddoo, and should start playing games in the near future. He hit .296 with five home runs in 52 games for the Tigers before suffering his leg injury.

Other medical updates

◦ Right-hander Alex Faedo (right middle finger discomfort) will start a rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Toledo. On Tuesday, the 27-year-old completed a three-inning simulated game, throwing 45 pitches.

◦ Right-handed reliever Will Vest (right lower leg strain) has been cleared to play light catch. The 28-year-old, who has a 2.73 ERA in 29⅔ innings, suffered his leg injury Monday against the Texas Rangers.

◦ Right-hander Casey Mize (right elbow sprain, lumbar sprain) will throw his second bullpen Saturday at Comerica Park. The 26-year-old threw 15 fastballs in his first bullpen, which took place Wednesday.

◦ Right-hander Spencer Turnbull (neck discomfort) will throw a touch-and-feel bullpen Saturday at Comerica Park.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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