Leyland on Rondon: I’ll take talent (sound familiar?)

Cover the same manager with the same team long enough, and you get a comfort zone. Jim Leyland fits that — in his phrasing, in his points of emphasis, sometimes even in his thought process. And then, every so often, he changes things up to keep people on their toes.

The first surprise from Leyland on Monday as he prepared for his eighth spring training as Tigers manager was the iPad on his desk. He owns a laptop, so he wasn’t unplugged in the past, and he made a point a year or two ago to say he keeps up with this blog. Now, he’s mobile. He isn’t on Twitter, but that’s probably more of a choice than a technological limit.

The second surprise came a few minutes later, when Leyland referred to himself in the third person for the first time I can remember. If he has done it before, it was only in a quick one-liner.

“Some writers in baseball, numbers guys and everything, don’t believe in the closer. But Jim Leyland does,” he said.

He was following up on a question over how many options he has to close a game if Bruce Rondon doesn’t win the job outright, and the line got a laugh.

So did a line about Bruce Rondon’s 102-mph fastball: “I love 100 mph like everybody but the state troopers.”

The root of the discussion, of course, was whether the Tigers can trust a 22-year-old rookie to handle ninth-inning leads for a team with World Series expectations. On that, Leyland went to a far more familiar refrain about 10 minutes later.

“I like talent,” Leyland said. “I don’t give a care how old they are.”

If that sounds familiar, it should. From 2006:

“You take experience. I’ll take talent, and I’ll take my chances.”

That, of course, was the year Leyland and the Tigers put rookies Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya on the opening day roster. They ended up helping Detroit to its first postseason berth in 19 years, and its first World Series berth since 1984.

“I’ve taken a few kids since I’ve been here,” Leyland said. “They’ve turned out pretty good.”

Neither of these lines means Leyland has anointed Rondon as the closer. As Leyland said, “There’s nothing that’s etched in stone with our closer. We think he’s a viable candidate.”

It’s possible, too, that Rondon makes the team and doesn’t win the closer job.

At the same time, while Leyland believes Octavio Dotel, Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke can close a game, he admittedly isn’t sure they can be the closer. Rondon, he said, has the chance to fill that role. He isn’t a one-pitch pitcher, Leyland said, echoing a point Dave Dombrowski made on Sunday.

“Am I concerned about it? Yes. Am I excited about it? Probably moreso,” Leyland said. “I’m really looking forward to it. I like talent. I’m excited about it, I really am, and I know that I’ve got enough pieces to mix and match a little bit if I have to.”


I repost:
Verlander 2 games /11 innings prior experience
Zumaya. 0, nils, nada of previous experience

This is the year of some weird contracts out there. Brandon Lyon has had a decent carreer, had excellent numbers last year and just got signed to a 750K salary with the Mets! Granted, it is highly incentive laden (and the incentives are weird themselves) but in a year where guys are getting mega millions for star performers and millions for average players–it makes you wonder.

I actually think Justin and Zoom are good examples why you would be wise not to annoint Rondon until he proves himself with rising intensity.
Whilst Zoom was great in the setup role, he had limited success in converting saves making only one save in each of his 5 seasons for a career 19% save rate. Justin likewise showed his youth in the 2006 post season never getting his ERA below 5 in the three series.

17-9 3.63 186 Inn sounds pretty good to me. Until the the two bad outings against the White Sox he was leading the AL in ERA. He was tired by the end of the season and like this year the long rest before the WS affected them all
RoY and in my book until those two games he was the frontrunner for the Cy Young

Zumaya: 1.94 1/2 s/blowns but 30 holds record is better than Benoit or Coke last year .

Rondon has the surprise factor in his side

The main difference between Rondon and Zumaya is that Rondon has been a closer all along and Zumaya had been a starter.

Good point RIch.

First – I didn’t know that Leyland acknowledged this blog let alone read it from time to time. For that I say kudos to the Skip. While second guessing is in everyone’s nature and our passion is unquestioned, this blog to me is great. Of course as a Tigers fan I have a biased opinion.
As for Rondon, no doubt he makes the team, but why give him the closers role immediately? Zumuya’s dominate year he pitched the 7th (Rodney 8th – Jones 9th). I think this model can be replicated. Rondon 7th, Benoit 8th and Al ABQ/Coke even Dotel in the 9th. Takes some pressure of the rookie, and the 3 outs in the 7th are just as crucial as the 3 outs in the 9th.

“All that kind of (criticism) is good. I think second-guessing is good,” Leyland said on WDFN 1130 Detroit. “I think viciousness is bad. So if somebody’s questioning why you bunted or something, that’s good for baseball; that’s good for the Tigers. I don’t have any problem with that. Those are peoples’ opinions”

I knew Jim listened to talk radio. There are plenty of educated comments on various sites, so it doesn’t surprise me that he checks it out some. As I’ve always said, second guessing the manager is part of the fun and hopefully isn’t taken personally.
Now, if Jim is face-timing he has passed me by, technologically speaking.

Well JIM, if you have noticed, your shortstop is under scrutiny. You might want to speak with your superior about an appropriate replacement should the feces hit the fan with this one.
Ramon nor Danny are adequate.

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