Rodriguez latest fill-in to bail out battered Tigers

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
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Detroit — You wonder, one of these days, as the Tigers medical staff carts off its latest casualty, if the entire Mud Hens roster will be summoned from Triple-A Toledo.

The Tigers keep reaching south for help, as they did again Wednesday in promoting scalding-hot rookie Ronny Rodriguez as an all-purpose replacement for a team that has lost all-important players to a sudden injury siege.

Infielder Ronny Rodriguez got the start at second base for the Tigers on Thursday against the Angels.

Rodriguez, 26, was to start at second base Thursday in the Tigers' 1:10 p.m. series finale against the Angels at Comerica Park. Pete Kozma was set to start at shortstop in place of Jose Iglesias, who had a hip contusion after a bumpy slide during Wednesday night's Tigers victory.

Rodriguez's arrival was an easy call Wednesday after he hit for the cycle, with two home runs, in a monumental batting display during Toledo's 12-7 victory at Syracuse.

"That's why they get called up, because they're hitting good," said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, who also lost center fielder Leonys Martin for Thursday's game after Martin had an injection for his sore hamstring. "They normally don't get called up if they stink."

Rodriguez signed with the Tigers last autumn as a minor-league free agent who was buried in a deep Indians system. He bats right-handed and can play virtually any position on the field.

He is batting .318 in 48 games, and .418 in his last 10 games. Rodriguez, who is 6-foot, 170 pounds, has eight home runs.

Rodriguez was in his hotel room after Wednesday's game when the call came from Mud Hens manager Doug Mientkiewicz.

Rodriguez was on his way to Detroit for his big-league baptism nearly a decade after he first signed with the Indians as a teenage prospect from Santiago, Dominican Republic.

"They gave me an opportunity and I'm glad for it," said Rodriguez, who had been a favorite to win a bench job during spring camp until he was beaten out by Niko Goodrum. "I just try to do my job. I'm a professional player. I try to control what I can."

The Tigers are so strapped with a sudden surge of aches and pains they had to send down third-string catcher Grayson Greiner to make roster room for Rodriguez. They also released minor-league pitching prospect Gerson Moreno to clear 40-man roster space. Moreno will have Tommy John surgery next month but, in line with minor-league rules, could not be placed on the 60-man disabled list.

Rodriguez can play anywhere in the infield, as Thursday's start at second base affirmed. He was starting regularly at third base for the Mud Hens.

He decided on the Tigers last autumn after having conversations with Tigers assistant general manager David Chadd. The Tigers, he said, were his only serious choice — all because of opportunity.

"The Indians are trying to win a championship, and this team is rebuilding," Rodriguez said. "I picked this team. I know I can play in the big leagues."

Dixon Machado got a day off Thursday, which led to Rodriguez's start, and to Kozma's shift at shortstop.

Victor Reyes was to start in left field, with JaCoby Jones moving to center against Angels starter Andrew Heaney. Ryan Carpenter, another of the Tigers' back-ups at Toledo, was to start for the Tigers.  

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