The Tigers will look to build off an impressive offensive performance when they open a four-game series with the Texas Rangers at Ameriquest Field.
Detroit routed the Kansas City Royals 14-3 on Wednesday, wrapping up a season-opening, two-game series sweep. Rodriguez went 5-for-5 with a homer, three doubles and five RBIs on Wednesday for the Tigers, who outhomered Kansas City 8-2 in the two games.
“When you have a day like this early in the year, it’s great,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been swinging the bat pretty good in spring training, so I just stayed with the same routine, the same philosophy.
“I always say the first month of the season is very important for any team. If we keep doing what we’re doing and having a great first or second month and play the game like we’ve been playing, we’ll be in good shape.”
Jim Leyland, in his first season as Tigers manager, was impressed with Rodriguez, who hit .276 last season—his worst average since 1993.
“He looks like the Pudge Rodriguez of old,” Leyland said. “He was always pretty good in the strike zone. But for whatever reason, he got out of that last year and he paid for it. When he’s a patient hitter and smart hitter, he’s going to hit.”
Texas was coming off its first win of the season, a 10-4 victory on Tuesday.
Starter R.A. Dickey will look to get the Rangers back on track. The right-hander appeared in just nine games last season, including four starts at the end of the year, and went 1-2 with a 6.67 ERA.
However, Dickey has been working on a knuckleball, making frequent trips from his home in Nashville, Tenn., to Southern California during the offseason to work on the pitch with former Ranger and longtime knuckleballer Charlie Hough. Hough picked up the slow, fluttering pitch at age 34 and extended his career by 12 years.
Dickey, who made a career-high 15 starts in 2004, spent most of last season at Triple-A Oklahoma after going on the disabled list 10 days into the season. However, he returned and held Baltimore to three earned runs in seven innings on Sept. 13 while relying on the knuckleball in his first start of the season.
“If it hadn’t been for those two weeks with Charlie, and all his help in developing this, I don’t think I would have made the team,” Dickey said after learning he had made this year’s roster as the fifth starter.
Dickey has made five career appearances, including three starts, against the Tigers, going 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA.
Dickey will square off against Detroit’s Nate Robertson, who went 7-16 with a 4.48 ERA last season. Robertson, who lost six of his last seven starts, is 2-2 with a 2.95 ERA in six career starts against Texas.
Robertson is 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA in two career starts at Ameriquest Field.