Kansas City, Mo. — If you are waiting for the Tigers to pull the plug on struggling reliever Francisco Rodriguez, get comfortable. It’s not happening any time soon, if at all.
“We are a better bullpen if he’s on the team and pitching well,” manager Brad Ausmus said before the game Tuesday. “We are doing what we can to get him back. We are going to stay the course.”
Rodriguez, who hadn’t pitched in eight days, gave up a walk and two-run home run to Eric Hosmer Monday, and then quickly dispatched the next three hitters. His outing prior to that, he pitched a clean scoreless inning against the Rangers.
There have been indications that he’s getting back on track, but he’s still searching for consistency.
“We have to find out if he can pitch with the game on the line,” Ausmus said.
Rodriguez is the unquestioned leader and mentor of the bullpen. After his outing Monday, he sat in the corner of the clubhouse providing an ear and counsel to Shane Greene, who also had a rough night.
“You get a good understanding why we want him to be part of it,” Ausmus said. “Because he is huge in that bullpen. He is the leader of the bullpen and has been since he stepped foot into the Detroit Tigers clubhouse.
“The guy is an unbelievable professional. He does things the right way. He’s very unselfish. Without question, he is the guy everyone down there looks to as the steadying, influential mentor.”
The month of May has been unkind to left-hander Matthew Boyd, who gets the start in the series finale Wednesday. The Tigers have lost all five of his starts and he’s posted a 6.92 ERA and 2.0 WHIP.
“The last three starts I have given up a lot of hits (29 in 12⅓ innings),” Boyd said. “So if you are looking at it from a sample size, that’s really what it is. It’s a matter of getting ahead in the count, not wasting any pitches and getting my off-speed stuff working.”
Teams have been flooding their lineup with right-handed hitters against Boyd. This season he has faced 209 right-handers and 29 left-handers — which is not unusual. He’s been tougher on lefties in his career; but the splits are relatively close (right-handers .294, lefties .266).
But this year, righties are hitting .328 against him and teams smell blood in the water.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t expect them to put lefties in there if they have options,” Boyd said. “It doesn’t bother me. I’ve got three off-speed pitches; I can handle righties and lefties. It’s just been a weird few games, these last three, the last two especially.
“I’ve gotten a lot of ground balls and lot of them have found holes.”
The change-up and slider are usually his antidotes to right-handed hitters. Both of those pitches have been inconsistent this month – which could account for the spiked batting average.
“Maybe in certain situations it’s been like that,” he said. “The slider wasn’t where I wanted it to be the last three starts. But, if I can start repeating my delivery and get it working again, it’ll all start evening out.”
Around the horn
Miguel Cabrera’s eighth-inning, two-run single Monday was just his fifth hit in 22 at-bats from the eighth inning on, which probably feels like déjà vu to him. He was similarly unproductive from the eighth inning on early last year, too (.162). But, from June on, he hit .367 from the eighth inning on. Maybe the single Monday was a precursor of things to come.
… The Martinez boys have been swinging it in May. Both Victor and J.D. Martinez rank in the top 25 in the American League in OPS. J.D. Martinez ranks third (1.202) and Victor Martinez 25th (.900). They have combined for 11 home runs and 32 RBIs.
… Outfielder Jim Adduci continues to make gradual progress. On the disabled list with an oblique strain, he’s begun to take swings off a batting tee. He also threw out to 120 feet on Tuesday. Ausmus, though, said he was still “a ways” away.
Tigers at Royals
First pitch: 8:15 Wednesday, Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
TV/radio: FSD, 97.1
RHP Ian Kennedy (0-4, 4.43), Royals: It’s been a rough month. In three starts he’s been tagged for 14 runs (13 earned) in 11⅓ innings. He’s allowed five home runs and opponents are hitting .261 with a .630 slugging percentage and .989 OPS. Lefties are hitting a robust .305 against him.
LHP Matthew Boyd (2-5, 5.40), Tigers: May has also been unkind to Boyd. He’s 0-4 with a 6.92 ERA and 2.0 WHIP. Teams are stacking their lineups with right-handed hitters. Boyd has faced 209 righties and 29 lefties this season and righties are hitting .328 against him. All seven of the home runs against him and 21 of the 23 walks have come to righties.