The Tigers announced that they have placed left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez on the 15-day injured list and infielder/outfielder Matt Vierling on the 10-day injured list. The former has a left index finger pulley rupture while the latter is dealing with a low back injury, with both moves retroactive to May 29. Right-hander Braden Bristo and infielder/outfielder Tyler Nevin have been recalled in corresponding moves.
The absence of Rodriguez will be an unfortunate one for the Tigers, as the lefty has been out to an excellent start this year. He has a 2.13 ERA through his first 11 outings, a figure that would easily be the best of his career, which is the 3.81 mark he posted in 2019 with the Red Sox. He’s had a bit of luck from a .253 batting average on balls in play and 83.3% strand rate but his 6.1% walk rate is on pace to be the lowest of his career and his 25.5% strikeout rate is a bit above his career 24% rate.
That excellent campaign will now be put on pause and it seems unlikely he will be able to return after the 15-day minimum. A detailed injury report from the Tigers, relayed by Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press, says that Rodriguez will rest for seven to days before being re-evaluated for a throwing program. That seems to suggest he’ll need at least a small ramp-up after that rest.
For however long he’s out, the club will need to find another starter to join Michael Lorenzen, Matthew Boyd, Alex Faedo and Joey Wentz in the rotation. Finding a replacement will be a bit tricky given the club’s other injuries, as staters Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize, Beau Brieske and Spencer Turnbull are each already on the IL themselves. Reese Olson and Garrett Hill are on the 40-man roster, though each has an ERA above 5.00 in Triple-A this season. Non-roster options include Rony García, Ashton Goudeau and Zach Logue, though they each have a Triple-A ERA of 4.97 or higher this year. The club has an off-day on Thursday but will need a solution at some point this weekend.
Rodriguez has also been floated as a speculative trade candidate for this summer on account of his strong season. That’s complicated by a couple of factors, one is the weak American League Central division. Despite a 25-27 record, the Tigers are in second place in the division and just two games back of the Twins. If they are able to hover around that level, trading one of their better players would be a tough sell.
It’s also complicated by his contract, which allows him to opt out after this season when he will have three years and $49MM remaining on the deal. His strong season was putting him on track to trigger that opt-out, thus making him a rental. However, the three remaining years would give pause to any acquiring club, as they would have the downside of remaining on the hook for that money if Rodriguez got hurt or underperformed after a trade. Such options and opt-outs generally make trades tricky and that would have been the case for Rodriguez. This injury will only add a further layer of complication on any future trade talks.
As for Vierling, he was acquired from the Phillies this offseason and has received regular playing time from the Tigers, appearing in 46 of 52 games thus far. He’s hit .241/.297/.352 for a wRC+ of 82 while stealing four bases and bouncing to all three outfield spots as well as brief stints at second and third base. It’s unclear how long he’s expected to be out of action but it’s possible that utility players like Nevin and Zach McKinstry get some more playing time next to outfield regulars Riley Greene and Akil Baddoo.