DETROIT — Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts knew that Eduardo Rodriguez had officially transitioned to life as a Detroit Tiger when he got a text from him on Sunday.
The Red Sox were scheduled to start a three-game series in Detroit on Monday, and Rodriguez wanted to invite Bogaerts to meet him for dinner.
There was only one problem — Bogaerts was busy playing a Sunday Night Baseball matchup on ESPN against the New York Yankees.
“It was funny that he texted me,” Bogaerts said Tuesday morning. “You remember those days. I think he might have forgot that we had a Sunday night game.
“He should know better. Yankees-Red Sox!”
On Wednesday afternoon at Comerica Park, it’ll be the Red Sox against Rodriguez, who made 153 starts for Boston over six seasons before signing a five-year, $77 million contract with Detroit as a free agent last November. It’ll also be Rodriguez’s second start with the Tigers; he took a no-decision on Opening Day last Friday against the White Sox.
“The result that I want is having a good game and pitching well, win the game,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “But all in all, no matter what the result is going to be, I want to enjoy having the opportunity to play my old team.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora said he joked about it, but it wasn’t quite an event they circled on the calendar.
“They knew that he was going to pitch but they don’t get caught up in that,” Cora said. “Obviously they have relationships and they respect him. He’s a guy that meant so much to most of them and to the organization. But we knew this day was gonna come. We didn’t know it was going to happen so quick, but with the adjustments in the schedule, it happens that he’s pitching the second series of the season and we get to face him.”
Because the Red Sox know Rodriguez so well, neither will have the advantage in Wednesday’s game.
“It’s going to be who makes the right guess,” Rodriguez said. “I know they know me, and they know I know them. They know the way I like to pitch. I know the way they like to hit.”
“I guess we’ll see what happens,” infielder Rafael Devers said. “Obviously we were teammates for a long time so I never had to face him like that. But now we’ll see what he has for us.”
That familiarity can work for or against him, but Rodriguez said his focus will have to be on treating Red Sox hitters like any other opponent, taking the same approach that he would against any other team.
“It could be my father, my mother, whoever, if somebody steps in the box against me, I’m going to try to strike them out,” Rodriguez said. “I’m going to get an out. That’s the way I learned. As soon as I step on the line and go to the mound, no matter who’s there, I have to strike them out, get an out.”
Bogaerts said it will be about who is able to execute better.
“I saw him pitch a lot,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what type of approach he’ll have against us because we know how he pitches. I’ve played shortstop behind him for, what, six years? We’ll see if he brings something new.
“He has good stuff. When he’s on, he can manage the zone pretty well with all his pitches. He can toe to the edges. Not very overpowering, not like when he came up. He’s more of a pitcher now.”
Of all the matchups with familiar faces, Rodriguez said he’s looking forward to facing Bogaerts the most. They were on the field together for nearly all of his starts, and frequently played video games together afterwards.
“If you ask me somebody I’m going to be excited to face, I would say Bogaerts, because he’s been like a brother to me,” Rodriguez said. “I really can’t wait to face him.”
Cora said he and the rest of Rodriguez’s former teammates are cheering for him. Except, of course, on Wednesday.
“He got his dream come true, get that big money and support his family,” Cora said. “Obviously, he probably would have loved to stay here, but it didn’t work out. We’re very proud of him, but tomorrow we gotta kick his [butt].”