E-Rod joins growing list of fallen starters

'Pinch' in left side forces Rodriguez out in first and is likely to send him to IL

May 18th, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG -- The injury bug has taken a bite out of the Tigers’ starting rotation once again.

Eduardo Rodriguez left Wednesday afternoon’s 6-1 loss to the Rays with a trainer after throwing just 23 pitches and recording one out. Manager AJ Hinch said Rodriguez suffered a “left side” injury that will likely require an injured list stint, and he’ll have an MRI to determine what exactly is going on.

“His left side is bothersome,” Hinch said. “[The injury] increasingly got worse during his warmup. He tried to go out there. You could kind of tell he was off. He’ll be down for a bit.”

Rodriguez said he felt a “pinch” in the area prior to his first pitch.

“I was warming up in the bullpen, and I felt like a little pinch on my side,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to check with the doctors and everything and see what it is.”

Rodriguez said the injury was something he’d never experienced before, and it hindered his ability to throw the ball the way he’d like.

It showed.

Rodriguez allowed three consecutive singles to begin his outing before walking in a run and surrendering a two-run single to Francisco Mejía. After getting Isaac Paredes to fly out, Rodriguez walked Vidal Bruján and immediately looked to the dugout.

Out came Hinch and a trainer, and Rodriguez was removed from the game and replaced by Rony García.

The injury is an obvious blow for the Tigers and Rodriguez, who entered Wednesday’s game coming off his best two starts of the year.

The lefty, signed as a free agent this past offseason, tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Astros on May 7, allowing one hit while striking out a season-high eight. Rodriguez followed that with his first win in a Tigers uniform against Baltimore on May 13, hurling 6 2/3 scoreless innings and throwing a season-high 104 pitches.

The Tigers’ rotation has been eviscerated by injuries just 38 games into the season. Michael Pineda suffered a broken finger last Saturday, and though he won’t require surgery, he’s on the shelf for a minimum of two to three weeks before he can be reevaluated. Casey Mize landed on the 10-day IL on April 15 with a right elbow strain and recently had his rehab slowed down. Matt Manning, who is on the 10-day IL with right shoulder inflammation, had his scheduled rehab start with Triple-A Toledo rained out Wednesday.

The Tigers have leaned on young arms such as Alex Faedo and Beau Brieske to pick up the slack, and they’ve been serviceable.

This nightmare situation could turn downright dysfunctional if stud Tarik Skubal were to suffer any sort of ailment. Knock on wood.

“It’s something that you never want to happen,” Rodriguez said of the countless injuries to the club’s arms. “Starting pitchers want to be out there every five days. Unfortunately, we have all those guys out, but [some] are getting ready to get back. It’s something nobody wants to happen, but it happens.”

The Tigers will use Thursday’s off-day before starting a three-game series in Cleveland to figure out the rotation going forward. Skubal, Faedo and Breiske are slated to start against the Guardians, but from there, things get uncertain.

“We’re going to play the games, so we’ve got to figure it out,” Hinch said. “Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We’ve got to play better. We’ve got to hit better. We’ve got to play with a little bit more uptempo. We’ve got to get in the strike zone. … [Improving] has a lot more to do than piecing together the rotation.”

A bright spot on the afternoon was the bat of Spencer Torkelson. The No. 1 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft and the Tigers' top prospect went 2-for-3 with a double and a solo home run, his team-leading fourth of the year. The 22-year-old has hit safely in consecutive games after entering the series 3-for-29 over his previous 10. He's hopeful this performance sparks something special.

“I felt good today and saw the ball well and just trusted my approach like I always do, and [it] paid off,” Torkelson said. “I feel like I’m right there.”

Former Tiger Isaac Paredes, who was traded to Tampa Bay for Austin Meadows prior to the season, turned in his first multihomer game against his old club, with solo shots in the third off García and in the eighth off Wily Peralta.

"He's a good player. We knew that,” Hinch said. “We got a good player in return [Austin Meadows]. That ex-team thing is real at this level. He certainly had a good day."