Rondon struggles in latest rehab outing
For all the encouragement on Justin Verlander’s rehab start, there was a flip side Saturday night in Toledo against Columbus. It was Bruce Rondon’s outing, which gave a lot more reason for concern than his last few outings.
After debating a call-up earlier this week, the Tigers decided to send Rondon back to Toledo for another rehab appearance, stretching him out to two innings. To try to make sure he got those innings, they stretched out his pitch count to 40. He ended up going one-plus innings, facing four batters in his second inning of work without retiring any of them, and giving up four runs on four hits and three walks.
It was a step backward for a reliever whose recent throwing seemingly had him on the verge of returning to Detroit’s bullpen for the first time since September 2013.
“To me, he really struggled,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. “As bad as his line looked, it was probably worse than that. … It was a real battle for him tonight.”
Two of Rondon’s three outs came on a double play after he loaded the bases with a hit and two one-out walks in the seventh inning. Clippers catcher Adam Moore lined out to left, and Xavier Avery threw out James Ramsey trying to score from third.
The escape for Rondon proved brief with the top of the Clippers order due up in the eighth. Francisco Lindor tripled and scored on a Michael Martinez singled before Jesus Aguilar homered to left-center. After a Zach Walters walk, Rondon’s pitch count was at 39, and Parrish had to get him, much to his frustration.
“If you consider yourself a big-league pitcher and you’ve got 40 pitches, and you get one inning of work in against a Triple-A club, you’d better be frustrated with it,” Parrish said.
The mechanics were not consistent. All three walks were on changeups out of a lower arm angle, Parrish said. It was a reminder that for all the throwing Rondon has done on his road back, he has had precious little game action.
There has been no indication that Rondon isn’t healthy. His velocity Saturday was more mid-90s than 98-99 mph, according to reports, but he was pitching in a longer outing.
“His velocity is fine. It’s a matter of locating,” Parrish said. “It’s great to throw 98-99, but it still needs to be located.”
The outing gives the Tigers a difficult decision in the coming days. Rondon reaches his maximum 20 days on rehab assignment on Tuesday, after which the Tigers must either make a roster move with him or keep him on the DL and not pitch him. Rondon has minor-league options left, making it possible for the Tigers to keep him at Toledo long-term.