March 4th, 2013

Leyland denies Valverde rumor, says it was never discussed

On the day the Tigers shelved Bruce Rondon for a few days to throw a side session and work out some mechanical tweaks, Leyland reiterated his stance that he doesn’t know who his closer is going to be, that they declared anybody. One thing that is not in the mix, though, is Jose Valverde.

Though a tweet last week from Joel Sherman suggested Leyland was interested in signing Valverde but that the price was too high, Leyland said that is not the case.

“It has not been discussed at all,” Leyland said.

Leyland said much the same and more on CBS Sports radio this morning. Another baseball source that has spoken with the Tigers in recent days echoed that.

The Tigers had a chance to sign Valverde as a free agent this offseason and chose not to pursue him, Leyland pointed out. Leyland has recommended Valverde to more than one team that has asked about him, but has known all offseason he wasn’t coming back to Detroit. Early Spring Training struggles from Rondon weren’t going to change that.

The Valverde rumor sounded a lot like the Rafael Soriano rumors that popped up now and then earlier in the offseason.

As for who will close, Leyland is leaving open a lot of internal options, including Rondon.

“Nobody is writing off Rondon,” Leyland said. “It’s way, way too early for that.”

Leyland said he would prefer to go with one set closer rather than a bullpen by committee, because it takes away a lot of the second guessing. But he’s pretty much open to ideas. Even the idea of Rick Porcello as a closer wasn’t entirely dismissed.

“I don’t know if that’s necessarily a wild thought,” Leyland said.

Monday: Tigers vs. Astros

At least Quite a few scouts are here getting a look at Rick Porcello, who will face a team other than the Braves for the first time this spring. He’ll get a pretty representative squad as the Astros go. Meanwhile, with an off-day coming tomorrow, the Tigers are playing many of their regulars still in camp aside from Victor Martinez, who is expected back in the lineup Wednesday.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Andy Dirks, LF
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Alex Avila, DH
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  7. Brayan Pena, C
  8. Kevin Russo, 3B
  9. Danny Worth, 2B

P: Rick Porcello

ASTROS

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B
  2. Fernando Martinez, LF
  3. Carlos Pena, 1B
  4. Chris Carter, DH
  5. Jason Castro, C
  6. Justin Maxwell, CF
  7. Rick Ankiel, RF
  8. Matt Dominguez, 3B
  9. Jonathan Villar, SS

P: Jarred Cosart

Rondon to be held back for side work Wednesday

Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones built his resume at Triple-A Toledo working out mechanical issues with pitchers he had barely seen in some cases. He’s going back to his roots with closing prospect Bruce Rondon.

After a pair of rough Spring Training outings and inconsistent fastball command since Grapefruit League play began a week and a half ago, Rondon is being pulled out of the Tigers relief rotation this time around so that he can work out some mechanical issues. He’ll throw a side session on Wednesday, the day his next game appearance would have been, and then likely return to game action Friday.

The mechanical work will focus on what Jones saw comparing video of Rondon’s late-season stint at Triple-A Toledo to what he has seen so far this spring. Jones checked on it after Rondon gave up a two runs, including a Tyler Pastornicky home run, Sunday against the Braves.

“We looked at some film this morning,” Jones said Monday, “and we saw a couple little things.”

Those little differences, Jones believes, might explain why Rondon has been missing high with his fastball so often in his four appearances so far this spring.

Jones said he doesn’t have a read whether Rondon is trying to overthrow to make an impression, or whether he might be trying to aim the ball to compensate. Though mid-90s fastballs aren’t exactly the equivalent of lobbing the ball in, they represent a drop in velocity from his first outing this spring, when he hit 99 mph several times and topped out at 100 two or three times.

“It’s tough to say, because this is his first exposure to big league camp,” Jones said.

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