Eduardo Rodriguez set to make return to Detroit Tigers on Sunday vs. Angels, Shohei Ohtani

CLEVELAND — Detroit Tigers left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will be removed from the restricted list Friday and start Sunday — his first MLB start since May 18 — against the Los Angeles Angels in a matchup with right-handed sensation Shohei Ohtani at Comerica Park.

Rodriguez has been on the restricted list since June 13 because of a marital issue. The 29-year-old did not communicate with the organization for one month but connected with manager A.J. Hinch before the All-Star break.

They spoke again Wednesday morning.

"I spent a significant amount of time on the phone with him," Hinch said. "He's doing great and is preparing himself to start for us this weekend. He's going to be in Detroit on the off day (Thursday). I'll meet with him. We'll have a plan and schedule of events in terms of his availably to you guys (media) as he rejoins us."

Tigers starter Eduardo Rodriguez pitches against the Boston Red Sox during first inning action Wednesday, April 13, 2022, at Comerica Park in Detroit.
Tigers starter Eduardo Rodriguez pitches against the Boston Red Sox during first inning action Wednesday, April 13, 2022, at Comerica Park in Detroit.

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In 2022, Rodriguez — the Tigers' Opening Day starter — has a 4.38 ERA with 17 walks and 34 strikeouts over 39 innings in eight starts. He also pitched three innings for Low-A Lakeland and 15 innings for Triple-A Toledo.

He started Tuesday for the Mud Hens, tossing six innings of one-run ball on five hits and one walk with 11 strikeouts. He threw 53 of 72 pitches for strikes, including an immaculate inning — nine pitches, nine strikes and three strikeouts — in the fifth inning. His fastball averaged 91-92 mph and maxed out at 93 mph.

"Very efficient," Hinch said. "His delivery was good. The only thing that really hasn't fully come back is the velocity. ... It reminds me of spring training when you go through rebuilding yourself. The strikeouts mean he's throwing strikes and getting into leverage. The contact wasn't really that hard.

"He could have kept going. He didn't feel winded. He didn't feel gassed. ... He sounded great on the phone and very ready to take the next step, and his stuff backed it up despite the tick or two down in velocity. Adrenaline in the big leagues might even solve that."

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Rodriguez forfeited $74,866 in salary for each day he spent on the restricted list (prorated from his $14 million salary this season). His activation Friday will leave him with 67 days on the restricted list, meaning he willfully relinquished approximately $5 million this season.

He signed a five-year, $77 million contract with the Tigers in November 2021, with an opt-out clause after next season.

Once the Tigers active Rodriguez from the restricted list Friday, the organization will make corresponding moves on the 26-man and 40-man rosters. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen Friday before Sunday's start.

Meadows' rehab pauses again

Outfielder Austin Meadows, who has played 36 MLB games this season and none since June 15, has been pulled from his rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo and will be evaluated Friday by Detroit's training staff.

"He doesn't feel like he's ready to compete at the major-league level," Hinch said. "We need to get him back and see him. I don't have a further update than that, other than when I see him on Friday, hopefully he can continue this steady climb. There's more work for him to do before we can trust him into competition."

Tigers left fielder Austin Meadows tries to rob a homer hit by Enrique Hernandez during third inning action Wednesday, April 13, 2022, at Comerica Park in Detroit.
Tigers left fielder Austin Meadows tries to rob a homer hit by Enrique Hernandez during third inning action Wednesday, April 13, 2022, at Comerica Park in Detroit.

The Tigers aren't shutting Meadows down.

The 27-year-old will participate in drills over the weekend as the Tigers evaluate his health. He suffered strains to both Achilles tendons in late June but has recently struggled to stay on the field due to general soreness.

He played four games — Aug. 10-12 and Aug. 14 — during his most recent rehab assignment and went 3-for-16 with two RBIs and four strikeouts. He was supposed to be in Tuesday's lineup but did not play.

"I'm not disappointed in him at all," Hinch said. "He's trying to put his best foot forward and trying to get back and play and end the season on a high note that has been largely frustrating for him and all of us. Not having him available has been a missing piece in our lineup.

"We have to take this step-by-step and day-by-day. There's a lot of things at stake for him and for us, and we want him to be at his best when he comes back. It does us no good to active him, make the roster look better on paper and have him not be able to answer the rigors of playing every day at this level and performing at this level."

Pineda 'just OK'

After Rodriguez completed six innings Tuesday, right-hander Michael Pineda (right triceps tightness) entered for the first outing of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo. The 33-year-old allowed three runs on six hits and one walk with three strikeouts over 2⅔ innings.

He threw 34 of 54 pitches for strikes.

"Pineda was just OK," Hinch said. "He felt fine. I think it was a unique routine for him to come out of the bullpen and piggyback Eduardo. Health-wise, I think he felt OK. He was a little rusty. On the flip side of it, his velocity was higher than we expected coming off an injury where he may ease back into letting it go."

Pineda will start Sunday for the Mud Hens.

He has a 5.27 ERA with six walks and 23 strikeouts over 42⅔ innings in 10 MLB starts. His season includes two stints on the injured list. He signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract in March.

Candelario scratched with non-COVID illness

Third baseman Jeimer Candelario was scratched from Wednesday's lineup with a non-COVID illness. The 28-year-old was replaced at third by rookie Kody Clemens, playing third and batting eighth.

"He was tested in all the things you would expect us to do in today's current climate," Hinch said. "I pulled him from the lineup, just a precaution. ... Jeimer is available (off the bench) and will stay with us and travel back with us. Normal sickness."

Candelario is batting .196 with 10 home runs, 21 walks and 86 strikeouts in 95 games.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' Eduardo Rodriguez will start Sunday vs. Shohei Ohtani