Detroit — A closer tends to be remembered for his last outing. And that last appearance by Francisco Rodriguez, in Wednesday’s game at Kansas City, was nothing the man they call K-Rod prefers that he, or Tigers fans, remember.
He was socked for two home runs and two walks worth two runs that fell a run shy of tying a game the Tigers won, 3-2, at Kauffman Stadium.
Coupled with a bad Opening Night at Miami, and Rodriguez, who came to the Tigers in an offseason trade with the Brewers, has not had the smoothest of Aprils.
But he still has four saves. His numbers for his last five outings are fairly benign: 3.60 ERA, five innings, three hits, three walks, with the back-to-back Royals homers Wednesday the only runs allowed.
“This guy’s a smart pitcher, he knows what he’s doing,” Ausmus said Friday as the Tigers got ready for an evening game they would lose to the Indians, 2-1, at Comerica Park. “He doesn’t get rattled. He’ll take the saves, and we’ll take ‘em.”
Rodriguez in 2015 was good on 38 of 40 save invitations when he pitched for the Brewers. But his April bumps have been tied to too little command of his pet pitch, the change-up, as well as a lower-gear fastball that has been far from pinpoint.
“It’s a very good change-up when it’s right,” Ausmus said. “I just think his command has been off a little.”
Ausmus mentioned a hallowed closer who also lived primarily off his change-up: Trevor Hoffman, whose 601 saves are second in big-league history.
Rodriguez’s lunch-bucket pitch isn’t as renowned as Hoffman’s. But the Tigers manager, for now, will stick with a closer whose tough month is considered by his bosses to be just that. And probably temporary.
“Obviously,” Ausmus said, “we hope it’s a blip on the screen.”
Extra work for Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera, who doesn’t often need an appointment with his batting coach, has been working with Tigers hitting inspector Wally Joyner as Cabrera deals with some April chills.
A four-time American League batting champion hit only .206 on the Tigers eight-game trip that ended Thursday with a shutout loss to the Royals.
He was 0-for-3 Friday on a ground out, a pop-up to first base, and a moderately deep fly to right field, alongside a walk in four tries.
“The big picture is he’s gonna get through it,” Ausmus said, explaining that Cabrera, like the late National League hit-machine, Tony Gwynn, “can really feel when something’s off.”
The Tigers and Cabrera appear to agree his lower body hasn’t been as active as normal. That diagnosis could obviously be tied to Cabrera’s off-kilter slugging: one home run and three doubles in the first 14 games.
“As good as he’s been, he’s been through it,” Ausmus said, speaking of some past Cabrera cold snaps. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
James McCann is expected, perhaps as early as next week, to begin a rehab assignment somewhere in the Tigers farm chain.
McCann has been on the disabled list since April 12 with a sprained ankle.
“Getting close,” said Ausmus, who has been watching McCann move nearer to his old workout routine. “We’ll probably make a (rehab) decision by the end of the weekend.”
Collins in center
For the second consecutive game, Tyler Collins started in center field ahead of Anthony Gose, who batted only .182 on the mid-April road swing. Collins was 0-for-3 in Friday’s game.
“Don’t think it hurts to give him a longer breather than one day,” Ausmus said.
Gose accepted the decision peacefully as he works with Joyner and others on some retooling.
“I’m just trying to figure out a swing that hits the ball,” Gose said, with a grin.
The Tigers celebrated the life of former Tigers radio broadcaster Paul Carey during pregame ceremonies Friday.
Carey died April 12 at the age of 88.
A flag, with Carey’s initials, was to be raised during the ceremony and will be flown at Comerica Park all season.