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Tigers look for Eduardo Rodriguez’s return in late August

A.J. Hinch also offered plenty of roster/injury updates.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

As the Detroit Tigers return to Comerica Park for a brief homestand, Saturday’s pre-game for their matchup with the division leading Minnesota Twins turned into a lengthy housecleaning session. Manager A.J. Hinch dropped a ton of injury news, with a mix of positive and negative notes, and most notably revealed that the team is now in touch with stray starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, and planning for a return to action for the lefty in about a month’s time.

Fans probably aren’t going to get the answers they’d like on this one. The Tigers aren’t going to reveal any personal information without Rodriguez’s consent. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter. The odds that the team might look to void his contract were always slim to non-existent at this point. We’ll just have to hope that Rodriguez can get back to his best form and help a team in dire need of starting pitching down the stretch to finish out. He may, however, have some explaining to do to his teammates.

The 29-year-old left-hander has been on the restricted list without pay since mid-June. He won’t be paid until he’s able to return off the restricted list. Rodriguez only made eight starts, compiling a 4.38 ERA with a 4.01 FIP, before going on the injured list with an oblique strain. He signed a five-year, $77M deal last November, including a player opt-out after two years.

Starting to get some help

As expected, RHP Rony Garcia, who has done a nice job after a lost 2021 season, didn’t really have an serious issues to overcome. Most likely his injured list stint over the All-Star break was designed to relieve some fatigue and help him to close the season strong over the final two months. He is now scheduled to start against the Twins on Sunday.

The right-hander started the season in middle relief, and was extremely effective. He’s improved his fourseam fastball and his curveball, producing a nice boost in strikeouts. The command still needs some work, but his 4.28 ERA/4.42 FIP combo suggest a pretty solid mid-rotation arm with versatility. Still just 24 years old, the Tigers 2019 Rule 5 draft pick taken from the New York Yankees has proven another good Rule 5 selection by the Tigers’ front office.

Right-hander Matt Manning also appears to be close to a return from the injured list. The former top prospect’s development was a key topic heading into the season. Instead, a lengthy bout with shoulder inflammation has left him unable to progress or pitch at all, since early April. A previous attempt at a rehab assignment was halted when Manning’s shoulder issue flared up again, forcing the Tigers to shut him down for a lengthy break.

Manning has made two short starts for the Toledo Mud Hens, and appears to be on course to return to the Tigers’ rotation following one final rehab appearance. On Friday night, he allowed a flurry of hits and three runs in the first inning, and then settled in and flipped the switch, cruising the rest of the way with plenty of swing and miss.

The Tigers will look to stretch him out with the Mud Hens next Wednesday, and if there are no issues, he should be back shortly. While his progress has been short circuited this season, the Tigers really need the help down the stretch, and Manning remains a central piece of the club’s future rotation plans.

On the downside, it looks like Alex Faedo’s hip injury is likely to cost him the rest of the season. We won’t call this a blessing in disguise, particularly for a pitcher that had surgery on both knees prior to his junior season in college, and is only just returned from Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2021 season. However, the club was going to have to be careful with his workload this season anyway, and the number of injuries around him was liable to make that difficult.

Currently, Faedo is just under 70 innings on the year. The Tigers probably would’ve been comfortable letting him get to 110-120 innings, so this is likely going to cost him seven or eight starts on his road back from the elbow surgery.

Reliever Kyle Funkhouser has been waylaid by shoulder trouble all year, and the news there does not appear promising at all. Fortunately, Jose Cisnero has finally returned and looks roughly Jose Cisnero-like so far. The Tigers will need the bullpen help as they’re expected to trade a few bullpen arms for young talent by the trade deadline.

Finally, starting pitcher Beau Brieske has emerged as the best of the rookie starters called up on this season to date. And so of course he too has been apparently felled by injury. Reports of forearm soreness immediately sent imaginations straight to Tommy John land, but frankly everything about this suggests a team using fairly normal fatigue for a starting pitcher to get the rookie an extended midseason break. Hopefully, with a little rest, Mr. Brieske will be back relatively quickly.

If all this comes together the way it’s currently tracking, the rotation the rest of the way should look something like this.

Tarik Skubal

Michael Pineda

Beau Brieske

Rony Garcia

Matt Manning

Garrett Hill will get some starts. We’ll wait to see if Joey Wentz is able to return at some point to continue getting his feet wet at the major league level, although the lack of updates on him isn’t very promising.

If Eduardo Rodriguez can return and pitch well in September, it would go a long way toward sorting out what they need to do this offseason, although in any case the answer is going to be; find a corner outfield bat and a new third baseman, for starters. Hopefully he’s able to resolve any lingering issues in the clubhouse regarding his absence, and he and the Tigers can get back to baseball.

The rest of the 2022 season now has to be judged in the context of the 2023 Detroit Tigers. We’re not going to suggest tanking — frankly there should be no issue landing another top five pick anyway, considering how things have gone — but there isn’t anything left to be salvaged as far as the win-loss record goes. Continuing to develop their young starters would help them salvage something of value going forward into the offseason. Most would just like to see respectable baseball and some signs that this “rebuilding” effort isn’t DOA.