Rodney returns to Comerica for rehab
Tigers reliever throws strikes in bullpen session
DETROIT -- Fernando Rodney was back warming up in the bullpen at Comerica Park on Tuesday. For now, he's just visiting.
He was preparing for an outing, but that's far down the road. This was less of a warmup than it was a mechanical clinic, with Tigers piching coach Chuck Hernandez running the session.
The primary goal was to have Detroit's staff watch his delivery as he threw at close to full velocity and try to pick out any mechanical issues. That went primarily for his fastball, which he has struggled to command at times during his Minor League rehab stint.
While the Tigers stretched for batting practice Tuesday afternoon, Hernandez could be seen in the bullpen giving pointers to Rodney, then watching him for a few pitches.
The changes were minor tweaks. On the whole, Hernandez liked what he saw.
"The ball's coming out of his hand real good," Hernandez said. "He's just rusty. He needs to get his innings in. He's working his way through Spring Training. But he looks good.
"He's getting closer. He's just got to sharpen it up a little. But he looked healthy. That was the best thing."
That was the thing on which manager Jim Leyland was focused. He made a brief visit to the bullpen to watch.
"I only went down for one reason, and my reason was answered very early on, and I walked back," Leyland said. "The freedom of the arm and the delivery, that's all I wanted to see. When I saw him turn the ball loose and throw the ball to the catcher, I could see that he wasn't favoring it."
All the while, Brandon Inge was catching him. He saw some decent command coming from Rodney's arm.
"Today it was just a light [session], just going at it to see what he could do," Inge said. "To me, he looked great. His changeup is right where it was before. Obviously when he first came to the league throwing 98 miles an hour, that's obviously not going to be there right now. But he was controlling it, and that's [the key]. To be honest with you, you've got to throw strikes.
"And that's what he was doing. He was comfortable. He was spotting both sides of the plate, fastball and changeup."
From here, Rodney will go back to Toledo for a two-inning rehab appearance with the Mud Hens on Friday. Nothing has been announced after that, but usually the Tigers have rehabbing relievers throw one inning on back-to-back days before they're recalled to the big club. That would seemingly mean no move is likely until next week.
"Rodney looks fine, healthy," Leyland said, "and it's just a matter of building up the arm strength and working out a couple things with the pitching coach. I'm assuming he'll be back in the not-too-distant future, but we've felt that way before about things, and I don't want to put the cart before the horse."
Rodney was sidelined from Spring Training until well into May with right-shoulder tendinitis. His absence created a void in the Tigers bullpen, where the Tigers have used several pitchers to fill what would've been Rodney's role as an eighth-inning setup man.
His anticipated return, along with Joel Zumaya soon after, should be a boost to a Tigers club that has dealt with one injury after another for most of this season. Manager Jim Leyland cautioned, however, not to expect too much.
"I'm talking about them a little more now because they're close," Leyland said. "But that's not going to be a cure-all, either, if everybody else doesn't do their job and pitch in and gut it out. These guys are not going to be saviors. If they're right and they perform the way they're capable, they're going to be tremendous additions. That won't mean anything unless other people grind it out and do something to step it up."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.