Leyland: Rondon could be part of bullpen committee
If you’ve been following the Tigers closer situation at all the last few weeks (and really, if you haven’t, you probably haven’t been reading Tigers coverage at all), you know that the bullpen by committee has been an option. Some have labeled it a fallback option if the Tigers determine Bruce Rondon isn’t ready. It might be more accurate to say it’s a middle ground if the Tigers believe Rondon is ready to pitch in the big leagues and close games but not necessarily ready to “be the closer.”
Asked about the chances of Rondon being part of a closer by committee, Leyland put it in one word: “Possible.”
“That’s a very good question,” Leyland said, “and that’s a very good answer. Possible, and that only means possible.”
Leyland summed up Rondon’s standing like this: “Is he in the mix as a closer? Yes. Is he in the mix to make the team, possibly as another pitcher you close with occasionally? Yes. Is it a possibility that he’s not ready yet? Yes.”
So there, pretty much, are your three possibilities.
Leyland saw encouraging signs from Rondon’s outing Tuesday, including a 101 mph fastball on the last pitch that Leyland said exploded in the strike zone from his view on the first-base side. The fact that Rondon threw his secondary pitches was encouraging, Leyland said, but he’s looking for command of them as the next step, and more swings and misses as they go along.
“This is a real talent,” Leyland said. “And what it’s going to boil down to is: Is this talent ready for this level? And I can tell you that decision has not been made.”
If the answer is yes, then the next question will be whether he’s ready to close full time or get chances as part of a committee. If it’s no, then comes the possibility Rondon gets more seasoning at Triple-A Toledo.
“The question to me is: Do you feel comfortable that this kid is ready to go to the big leagues, whether it be as a closer or a guy that could break in and pick your spots? That’s the question,” Leyland said, “and I don’t think that question is going to be answered until right down to the wire.”
At the same time, though, Leyland said later, “You’re not going to know what Rondon can do at the Major League level until the day comes, whether it’s two weeks from now or two months from now or a year from now, until you see him at the Major League level. That’s just the way it is.”
Leyland has projected lineups for the teams the Tigers are going to face to start out the year, so it’s safe to say that matchups will have an impact.