Under-the-radar Eduardo Rodriguez brings competitive fire to Tigers

  • Senior writer ESPN Magazine/ESPN.com
  • Analyst/reporter ESPN television
  • Author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty”

For most of new Tiger Eduardo Rodriguez’s career, he has been known largely for his mound stoicism — for the fact that his expression never seems to deviate on the field.

This is why the typically placid Rodriguez surprised some rival evaluators with his emotional slam-dunk of Houston’s Carlos Correa in the American League Championship Series. After Correa celebrated a home run in Game 1 of that series by pointing at an imaginary wrist watch — It’s my time — Rodriguez punctuated a strikeout of Correa in a key moment of Game 3 by mimicking the gesture.

Boston manager Alex Cora immediately rebuked Rodriguez, leaning into the pitcher as he walked off the field and telling him that’s not how he wanted the Red Sox to respond.

But to some of the evaluators watching — many of whom were preparing for the offseason bidding that would lead to Rodriguez’s five-year, $77 million deal with the Detroit Tigers — Rodriguez wasn’t showing anyone up, just reacting to a moment. He was acting like someone devoted to taking down opponents. They loved it.

“He is really competitive,” said Buck Showalter, who managed the Orioles as Rodriguez ascended in their farm system. “This is someone who is smart, and really wants to win.”

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