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K-Rod gears up for WBC '17 with 1st outing

Tigers closer retires first two batters before allowing two walks and a single
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Francisco Rodriguez made the run in from the Tigers' bullpen for the fifth inning, not the ninth. He did not finish it, leaving with the bases loaded before the Yankees emptied them. Yet the pitches he threw in between left him feeling good about where he's at in preparation for the World Baseball Classic.

Thanks to a sore hamstring, Saturday's 11-1 Tigers loss was Rodriguez's only game appearance before he leaves to join Team Venezuela on Monday. Before he deals with the pressure of a country's hopes on his right arm, he'll have Sunday off to be with family and handle the stress of his daughter's 16th birthday.

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Francisco Rodriguez made the run in from the Tigers' bullpen for the fifth inning, not the ninth. He did not finish it, leaving with the bases loaded before the Yankees emptied them. Yet the pitches he threw in between left him feeling good about where he's at in preparation for the World Baseball Classic.

Thanks to a sore hamstring, Saturday's 11-1 Tigers loss was Rodriguez's only game appearance before he leaves to join Team Venezuela on Monday. Before he deals with the pressure of a country's hopes on his right arm, he'll have Sunday off to be with family and handle the stress of his daughter's 16th birthday.

View Full Game Coverage

It's not the ideal scenario, but Rodriguez believes he's ready.

"Obviously, it's not going to be the same as over here," Rodriguez said. "There's going to be more adrenaline. I'm going to let it fly, obviously. But the main thing right now is I want to be able to locate my pitches and not go out there trying to throw as hard as I can and have no clue where the ball's going to go. So now next outing [in an exhibition game], I'm going to get after it a little bit, because I know the 10th I've got to be 100 percent."

For the first two batters Saturday, Rodriguez felt good. He retired Starlin Castro on a fly ball before striking out Chase Headley on his notorious slow changeup. From there, however, things fell apart.

"Changeup was good, and the two-seam was moving a lot," he said. "They got pretty good movement. So once I get those two guys out, I just want to pretty much in my mind throw BP fastballs and try to get out of the inning as quick as possible. And then you see how I end up, walking the guy, base hit and another walk. But I threw the pitches that normally I throw during the season, and that's what I care about -- work on things in situations that I'm probably going to be in during the season."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

Detroit Tigers, Francisco Rodriguez