Detroit Tigers: Realistic Opening Day expectations for Eduardo Rodríguez

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals.
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals. / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Day expectations for Detroit Tigers starter Eduardo Rodríguez.

The time has finally come, and the Detroit Tigers are getting ready to officially kick off their 2023 season. They are lucky enough to stay in Florida to start the season instead of traveling north to battle the cold and wintry Michigan.

They kick off their season against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday as all 30 MLB squads face off in 15 different match-ups. The Detroit Tigers are sending starting pitcher Eduardo Rodríguez to the mound to toe the slab.

The 29-year-old (soon to be 30-year-old), Rodríguez is looking for a big bounce back in 2023 after his first season in a Tigers uniform was not the most exciting. After all, he disappeared from the team to tend to family matters for almost two months, opting to sever contact with the team as well.

He made a return and got back on the field in 2023, but things did not exactly go as planned for the left-hander, who was not the player that the team spent $77 million over the next five seasons. He pitched in 17 games for the Tigers in 2022, with 91.0 innings pitched. The left-handed pitcher managed 72 punchouts while pitching to a 4.05 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP.

Rodríguez went off to pitch in the WBC, where he pitched two innings. He allowed a run and surrendered seven hits in his outing, with a punchout. He returned to the Tigers and jumped back on the hill once more to get right as Spring Training finished before earning the Opening Day nod.

This Spring, Rodríguez totaled 18.1 innings pitched over five outings. He allowed 20 hits, allowed just three earned runs, walked three, and punched out 21 opposing hitters. The southpaw was tuning up for the 2023 season, and he gets the nod on Opening Day on Thursday.

The left-hander will likely go out on an 80-100 pitch count. If I were to guess, playing it safe and keeping him well under 100 is the goal. Turn the game over to the bullpen after 80-90 pitches in a brief outing and let the bullpen get some work in now that the regular season has begun.

Looking at the history, Rodríguez is no stranger to the Rays after playing in the American League (AL) East during his tenure in Boston. He's made 14 regular season starts against the Rays in his career. He's logged 67.2 innings pitched against Tampa Bay while pitching to a 5.59 ERA, a 1.55 WHIP, and punching out 80 Rays hitters.

Impressively enough, he has a 2-5 record against the Rays, meaning that the game will likely be handed over to the bullpen to decide whether it's a win or a loss. Regarding what to expect in Rodríguez on the bump, it will be a FB/CT/CH mix with a "slider as well."

He's a heavy-dosage fastball guy who works the 4-seam and sinker as his primary offering. Bot hare lumped together as his fastball, but he threw it 55.3% of the time in 2022. After that, its the cutter with 24.5% usage. He shows the changeup as his tertiary offering at 16.2% usage in 2022.

Rodríguez has a slider too, but it's just a deviation of his cutter, to be honest. Against the Rays, expect the at-bats to be loaded with early fastballs, showing the cutter as a change of pace. Against right-handed hitters, expect that changeup to be used to try and induce weak contact and whiffs.

He does not have the stuff or repertoire of a frontline ace, so he will pitch to miss barrels and let his defense do the work. Realistically, you're looking at a five-inning start with some dink and doink hits along the way and avoiding runs coming around to score as best case scenario.

As the Tigers get their 2023 season underway, expect Rodríguez to be his usual self in a controlled and shorter start against the Rays on Opening Day.

Next. How to watch Detroit Tigers Opening Day in 2023. dark