Game 97: Benoit’s mentoring helps Rondon

Bruce Rondon came through the Tigers farm system getting advice and help from Jose Valverde, the man he was eventually invited to spring training to replace. Valverde did a lot for young players in minor-league camp over the years he was here, from bringing over food in spring training to talking with pitchers about mound mentality.

Aside from a brief stretch in April, Valverde and Rondon did not play on the same team. The Tigers made the call to bring up Rondon last month only after they pulled the plug on Valverde as the closer and needed to fill the opening it left in middle relief.

Benoit not only became the closer, he became the veteran. He’s helping provide advice to Rondon.

“He’s trying to take advantage as much as he can of the little things in baseball,” Benoit said. “He’s been around the league and can learn some hitters’ tendencies. Basically I told him how to face some guys.”

There are young hitters Benoit doesn’t know, and he tells Rondon in those situations to go with his gut. He also has talked with Rondon about setting up his fastball, about throwing it up to change the eye level on hitters.

There are also hitters that Rondon has already seen, in which case he’s learning how to apply what he has seen from them. He saw the Royals in his Major League debut in April, and he gave up three hits in an inning to them to blow an eighth-inning lead. He’s a completely different pitcher since then.

“He already faced them a time before,” Benoit said. “We already talked about them. He knows already that he can’t try to do the same thing every time, because they’re professional hitters.

“He’s learning. You can see his approach is different. He’s throwing his fastball more often. He’s elevating more. He’s throwing for strikes and controlling his pitches.”

His manager, in turn, is slowly working him into bigger situations. Sunday’s matchups all but dictated going with Drew Smyly in the seventh inning for three left-handed hitters, then Rondon in the eighth for the middle of the Royals order.

“I’m going slow with him,” Leyland said.

Two of the three hitters Rondon faced Sunday faced him in April. Billy Butler, whose leadoff single on a 2-0 pitch started the eighth-inning rally the first time around, fell into an 0-2 count on fastballs before grounding out on a slider. Lorenzo Cain, whose sacrifice fly in April brought in the tying run, saw four fastballs and didn’t make solid contact with any of them, striking out on a foul tip off a 102 mph heater.

In between, Salvador Perez — who took a called third strike against Rondon on Friday — lined out to third.

It was the third consecutive perfect outing for Rondon, who has retired 11 consecutive batters in that stretch. He has walked two batters in nine innings since rejoining the team nearly four weeks ago. All of that work has come in the seventh inning or later, but Sunday was Rondon’s first close lead, resulting in his first Major League hold.

Rondon’s potential use over the stretch run is going to depend a ton on what the Tigers do on the trade market. It would be a major surprise if GM Dave Dombrowski doesn’t add a reliever he can use in the late innings, either to close or set up.

That doesn’t mean that Rondon will be a forgotten man. Leyland will pick and choose his situations more to use Rondon, but he’s not going to forget that kind of arm. He also isn’t going to forget what kind of asset he has with the kid.

Benoit isn’t forgetting what the young arms behind him mean to the team. He reads what has been written about Detroit’s bullpen, and all the faults thrown at it. He ran through a list of them as he talked following Sunday’s list.

“I think we’re good,” Benoit said. “We’re not as bad as people put us.”

26 Comments

good man benoit!
.
How is Dotel’s arm strength coming? How was Omar’s evaluation on saturday?

Joaquin seems so humble and polite.

off the mound.

the bat of 2E and the defense of Pena are both going to be very important in the next several games.

…and Rondon’s arm. If he gets his off speed stuff over like he did in KC, the bullpen will be much improved.

Also, there is an old Tiger veteran in the Toledo bullpen with a lot of experience that I think can really help the Tigers bullpen.
And it is not the Big Potato.
I think Bonderman is making a wise decision working in the Toledo bullpen. If his slider is still crisp, he would be a great “Holds” guy in the bigs.

is that what the org is working on using him for? or AAA starter insurance?

I was wondering that s how they were thinking of Bondo since I noticed all of his outing have been in relief in AAA

tiger outtings? or seattle?

Outings in Toledo, I believe he was starting for Seattle

coool cool very glad they informed him that was his best shot. It’s kinda a long shot but one that would be cool to see!!

He was a starter with Seattle. Relieved with Toledo.
“The Mud Hens indicated that RHP Jeremy Bonderman will not be in Toledo’s rotation after all” Wagner

How did Victor do at 1st yesterday? He seems to hold his own there IMO.

Win it without me tonight, guys. I’m going to see the Eagles in DC. Haven’t seen them since July 19 1974 at the Ozark Music Festival in Sedalia MO. Half a million people then. Not so many tonight.

That was before Hotel California?

It was. Original lineup, including the banjo picker and bass player. Wow, were we young.

I think VMart is a pretty good defensive 1B. Not Hosmer or Kotchman, but good.

Heyman:”bans for a-rod/others expected within 2-3 weeks. sources: like braun, a-rod invoked Jenkins Rule & didnt answer questions.”

Don’t think the MLBPA will allow suspensions until 2014, they will drag appeals process, etc.

The MLBPA could recommend to accept the punishment if the evidence is clear said Wiener. They want a clear game too, or so they are saying.

True, Magglio made a career out of good positioning and the arm.

and bat ;)

Austin Jackson CF, Torii Hunter RF, Miguel Cabrera 3B, Prince Fielder 1B, Victor Martinez DH, Jhonny Peralta SS, Matt Tuiasosopo LF, Brayan Pena C, Hernan Perez 2B, Scherzer. Starting

great lineup!

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