Dotel placed on DL, Rondon promoted
The Tigers’ closer of the future didn’t need long to become the relief help of the present. Bruce Rondon, whose triple-digit fastball made him a candidate to head up the bullpen out of Spring Training, earned his first call to the big leagues Tuesday to replace injured Octavio Dotel.
The Tigers placed Dotel on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation. They recalled Rondon from Triple-A Toledo, where his season-opening stint as Mud Hens closer produced the dominant right-hander who skyrocketed up the Tigers farm system last year.
It’s not immediately clear how Rondon’s arrival will affect the Tigers’ closer situation. Manager Jim Leyland has said for the past two weeks that he doesn’t have a set closer, but that he’d like to use Joaquin Benoit in the ninth inning if he can.
As the Mud Hens closer, Rondon has settled into a rhythm and shown the command that seemed to come and go in Spring Training. His 7 2/3 shutout innings include five hits allowed, two walks and nine strikeouts. He’s 3-for-4 in save opportunities, the exception coming when he couldn’t shut down a bases-loaded jam April 15.
Even so, he struck out four batters over 1 2/3 innings in that outing, and didn’t allow a walk. He hasn’t walked a batter in his last four appearances, covering 4 2/3 innings.
That control likely played a major role in the Tigers’ decision to promote him now rather than let him continue his Triple-A education. He joins a Tigers bullpen that could use his help after relievers have covered 20 1/3 innings over Detroit’s last five games, including a 13-inning loss Sunday against the Angels.
Dotel was unavailable Sunday, which helped put the Tigers in the precarious position of having just left-handers left as the game rolled into extra innings.
Dotel said after that game that the elbow inflammation that sidelined him the previous weekend hadn’t gone away.
“It’s still there,” Dotel said. I’m just trying to get through that, but it’s still there and hopefully we just found out a way to get it out.”
Dotel suggested at the time that they would see how his elbow felt on Tuesday.
The 39-year-old has pitched just 4 2/3 innings over six outings so far this year, but his average fastball velocity is down about three miles per hour from last year according to fangraphs.com. That said, the Tigers have been bringing him along slowly since spring because of his limited work in Spring Training and during the World Baseball Classic.
Dotel has pitched Friday against the Angels, so the DL move was made retroactive to last Saturday. He’ll be eligible to come off the DL on May 5, the last day of a four-game series in Houston. If Rondon is overpowering big-league hitters when Dotel is ready to return, the Tigers will have a decision to make whether Rondon is ready to stick in the Majors.