E-Rod leads the young Tigres pitching

LAKELAND, Florida USA — The Venezuelan Edward Rodriguez he is the highest-paid and most experienced pitcher on the Detroit Tigers after signing a five-year, $77 million contract.

Still, manager AJ Hinch doesn’t see fit to label someone the first starter in the rotation.

“I know players probably take responsibility from where they throw,” Hinch said Wednesday. “But not me, the number one pitcher is the one who starts every game.”

Rodriguez, a 29-year-old left-hander, will start Friday in the preseason opener and possibly do the same in the Tigers’ April 8 season opener against the Chicago White Sox.

“The pitching obviously has to get going quickly,” Hinch said. “We expect four starts per starter. We are going to try to condense the exits that the boys have. We have to get them up to speed. We’re not going to watch our younger pitchers on the field a lot.”

Rodriguez has 153 career starts. Casey Mize, Matt Manning and left-handers Tarik Skuba and Tyler Alexander, the four pitchers likely to join him in Detroit’s rotation, have a combined 116, most last season.

“I like that he’s here and I know he’s going to help us,” Mize said of Rodriguez. “It brightens our rotation and it’s going to make us better.”

Only Mize and Skubal started last season in the rotation. Manning appeared in June and started 18 games. Alexander spent most of the season in the bullpen, becoming a regular starter in August.

“This time last year, Mize was like a sketch. Skubal was maybe one more project done, Matt Manning was definitely going to a Triple-A branch,” Hinch said. “Looking forward, having fewer gaps, it’s now more difficult to get to this team because of the responses we already have coming into training camp.”

Detroit improved its ERA to 4.32 last year from 5.63 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. A more varied bullpen included Michael Fulmer, Joe Jimenez, Jose Cisnero, Alex Lange and closer Gregory Soto.

“Towards the end of the year, I thought we had one of the best bullpens in the league because everyone knew their role,” Fulmer said. “AJ had a plan and he stuck to it and it worked for us.”

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E-Rod leads the young Tigres pitching