The Tigers signed Eduardo Rodriguez this winter to bring veteran stability to a rotation hoping to struggle. They held a press conference for him at Comerica Park, where Rodriguez charmed with his smile and easy humor.
Why, he was asked, did he sign with the Tigers rather than accept the Red Sox’s qualifying offer?
“I’ll be honest with you,” Rodriguez said. “Do you prefer 18 or 77 (millions)?”
Now Rodriguez’s locker in the Tigers clubhouse is cluttered with items that were never brought home. There’s a framed Opening Day lineup card, a gift from the team. There is a poster of the recent celebration of Miguel Cabrera’s 3,000th hit. There’s a litany of unworn shirts and shoes.
And after Monday’s announcement that Rodriguez has been placed on the shortlist, there’s been a noticeable absence and a growing number of questions.
Rodriguez, according to a statement from Tigers general manager Al Avila, will not join the team at this time. It is not known when or if he will return.
“Eduardo Rodriguez has informed the club that due to personal issues he will not be joining the team at the moment,” Avila’s statement read. “As a result, Eduardo has been placed on the shortlist until further notice.”
Seconds after the Tigers released that statement, manager AJ Hinch entered the dugout at Comerica Park and sat down for his daily media session. Hinch did not provide further details on Rodriguez’s situation. Hinch had already been vague on Sunday, when he said Rodriguez would not pitch in Detroit or with Triple-A Toledo next week.
When asked on Sunday if Rodriguez was dealing with a personal issue, Hinch replied, “Yeah. I’ll let you know in a few days.
On Monday, Hinch couldn’t say more about what Rodriguez faces or what it could mean for the rest of the season. Gene Mato, Rodriguez’s agent, did not respond to a text message. The lack of clarity creates a whirlwind of uncertainty.
“The statement is what it is,” Hinch said. “I have been in contact with Eduardo, and I look forward to his return whenever he does. Keep supporting him.”
The MLB shortlist means Rodriguez won’t receive a salary, rack up time on duty or count on the Tigers’ 40-man roster.
“The shortlist part is the relationship between the player and the organization,” Hinch said. “I knew he wasn’t going to debut, he wasn’t going to pitch in the minor or major leagues at that time. It was inevitable.
Rodriguez was previously on the mend from a sprained rib cage and hasn’t pitched for the Tigers since May 18. He pitched four scoreless innings with nine strikeouts in a minor league rehab debut last Thursday and received rave reviews from Hinch the next day.
“The results were incredibly impressive,” Hinch said. “The numbers of withdrawals, the speed was good. … He felt good. It was an encouraging step in the right direction, without pain, without problem, without apprehension. Just a dominant first outing in rehab.
Something changed between Thursday and this weekend, and now Rodriguez’s absence leaves a decimated Tigers rotation – one that lost Casey Mize for the season just days ago – in search of a viable replacement. .
When the Tigers signed Rodriguez in the offseason, they hoped he could become a reliable workhorse. Hinch informed Rodriguez early on that he would be the team’s starter for opening day. Optimism abounded. But now in June, Rodriguez has pitched just 39 innings with a 4.38 ERA for the Tigers. He’s been an elusive presence in the clubhouse since the early days of spring training, often refusing or avoiding interviews.
The team is 24-35 years old, reeling from a disappointing start filled with injuries, illnesses and other difficult circumstances. The team’s main off-season additions – Rodriguez, Javier Báez, Tucker Barnhart, Andrew Chafin and Michael Pineda – are worth a total of 0.9 fWAR.
Now Rodriguez has left due to unknown personal issues. The Tigers are left with another absence and even more questions.
(Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)