Results tagged ‘ Bruce Rondon ’
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.
The spotlight that has been shining on Bruce Rondon every outing for the last five weeks finally can come down. Now comes the judgment whether he’s ready to pitch, or close, in the big leagues.
Wednesday’s outing against the Phillies didn’t make the decision process any simpler.
“From an organizational standpoint, we’re evaluating a couple of these last decisions we have to make,” manager Jim Leyland said. “We evaluated yesterday and we evaluated today, and we will discuss those evaluations in both instances.”
Without saying as much, Leyland was acknowledging the difference in the two days, and the complication in putting together a judgment as a whole. A day after Rondon put together what Leyland calls his best pitching of the spring, he struggled to try to get through his inning of work Wednesday.
Neither of the back-to-back singles Rondon allowed leading off Wednesday’s seventh inning was hit particularly hard, though Ben Revere’s ground ball single was hit hard enough to elude Danny Worth’s diving attempt at third base. With runners at the corners and nobody out, Rondon rebounded to fire fastballs past Troy Hanzawa for the first out, but Michael Young’s grounder to short sent Jhonny Peralta just far enough to his left to leave him without a play at the plate.
It also moved the speedy Revere to third, and that’s where Rondon’s outing seemed to come apart. A walk to Laynce Nix put runners at the corners for Carlos Ruiz when a balk cost him another run.
Catcher Alex Avila took the blame for the balk, saying they had a mix-up on signs. When Avila threw down another sign, Rondon stopped in his delivery, drawing the call and sending Revere home with another run.
“Alex said he messed it up. I don’t worry about that,” Leyland said.
Ruiz’s ensuing walk drew Leyland out of the dugout as soon as Rondon snatched the toss from Avila. Rondon had hit his pitch count, and Leyland did not want to go much past that on Rondon’s second straight day of pitching.
“He wasn’t as sharp, obviously,” Leyland acknowledged, “but he wasn’t <i>bad</i> bad.”
That said, Leyland acknowledged it’ll be part of the evaluation.
Publicly, Leyland and Avila said, Rondon has been evaluated on a game-by-game basis. It’s part of the spotlight a closer goes through, but it’s something the 22-year-old Rondon hadn’t experienced before.
“Obviously [Tuesday] he was lights-out, but I think everybody has unrealistic expectations,” Avila said. “I mean, every time he pitches, you guys ask how he did. It seems like everybody expects him to have a 1-2-3 inning with three strikeouts every inning. That’s never going to be the case.
“But I thought he threw all right [Wednesday]. He was a little bit more wild than he was yesterday. He still made some real good pitches. … Overall, I thought he pitched OK. Obviously there’s room for improvement.”
Leyland and the Tigers front office have three options for their fireballing reliever. They can name him the primary closer, they can start him out in the bullpen as part of a closer by committee, or they can option him to the minors for more seasoning. Leyland was giving no hints on what he might do Wednesday.
Coming into the day, the second option appears like the strongest option. As guarded as Leyland was in his praise the last couple weeks, he has been measured in his critiques during his two rough outings over the past five days.
“He wants to make the team and he’s trying his fanny off to make the team,” Leyland said, “and everything’s been written so much about it. It’s got to affect him a little bit. I think he’s handled things pretty darn well.”
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.
The Tigers didn’t wait until next week’s non-tender deadline, knowing it would eventually come to this. They released Ryan Raburn on Tuesday, parting ways with the enigmatic right-handed hitter after more than a decade in the organization.
The release was one of a handful of moves to set up the 40-man roster ahead of next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Detroit also outrighted Tyler Stohr to Triple-A Toledo and purchased the contracts of prospects Bruce Rondon, Melvin Mercedes and Dixon Machado.
Of those, Rondon is the one with a real chance (likelihood) to spend time in the big leagues next year. As a talented, hard-throwing reliever playing at a level below his age, however, Mercedes had a chance to get snagged in the Rule 5 had Detroit not protected him.
There are few things faster in baseball these days than a Bruce Rondon fastball. It has been clocked as high as 102 mph, including during the Futures Game in July at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.
The only thing faster in the Tigers organization than Rondon’s fastball might be the track he’s on.
Dave Dombrowski’s end-of-season remarks are an annual tradition now, painting the roadmap for the Tigers offseason, both for what they might look to do and what their plans are with pending players. It also seems there’s usually a prospect or two that gets some lift out of it.
Three years ago, it was Scott Sizemore. Last year, Drew Smyly got a mention. Today might well go down as the day Dombrowski set the path for Rondon.
Everybody figured him to be a closer of the future with these guys. Tuesday was the day we found just how near that future might be.
“I would not discount Bruce Rondon in the competition for our closer role for next year,” Dombrowski said. “I’m not saying he’s going to be our closer, but I do not discount him in that role.
“He is a guy that throws — and people don’t sometimes believe this, but it is true — he averages 100 miles an hour and topped off at 103, and throws his breaking stuff for consistent strikes.”
Dombrowski confirmed what others had speculated, that Rondon was a serious consideration for a call-up leading into September this year, which would’ve made him eligible for the postseason roster. Had they known that Valverde was going to struggle the way they did, they would’ve done it, which would’ve put a whole different look on Detroit’s closer by committee.
“This guy is a special potential closer with the makeup of a closer,” Dombrowski continued, “and normally you’re not going to thrust that in a young guy’s hands and say automatically, ‘It’s your job.’ But it would not surprise me if he earned that job. With the number of good arms that are out there, there are not many arms like this, and he cherishes that type of role.”
Dombrowski wasn’t the only one touting Rondon. When Leyland was asked about the difference between going with a closer by committee in a postseason and doing that for a full season, he hesitated.
“I’ve handled those situations before, but who’s to say we won’t have a closer,” Leyland countered. “I think we will have a closer. I think it might be a surprise closer, but I think we might have one. And I’m not talking about Phil Coke, by the way. Not that I don’t like Phil Coke.”
Someone then mentioned Rondon.
“Rondon’s a good name. Here’s a kid, who knows? Believe me, I’m not putting my blessing on Rondon as a closer for next year, but I’m just mentioning that name as a possibility. When you’ve got an arm like that, that’s a possibility. Now, could he handle it mentally, could he handle it in a three-tier stadium with the bright lights? I don’t have a clue.”
It’s an interesting contrast. The last Tigers reliever who threw as hard as Bruce Rondon does was Joel Zumaya, who crashed the roster to become a force in a setup relief role in 2006. At no point did Zumaya ever earn the closer’s job, partly because of injuries but not entirely.
The last rookie to have any sort of closing job in Detroit was Franklyn German, who shared the job in 2003. However, a closer’s role on a 43-119 team isn’t exactly like a regular job. German shared the team lead in saves — with five.
If you count Fernando Rodney’s time down the stretch in 2005, the Tigers have had experienced closers in the role every year since 2006.
“You see [Aroldis] Chapman close and there’s been other young guys close for clubs,” Dombrowski said. “I know it hasn’t been our normal situation. People know how good an arm Zumaya had, this guy has every bit and it comes out easier with less effort in his delivery.”
Dombrowski is aware of their track record. He’s also well-aware he has a team that’s expected to win next year, a team that opened as a World Series favorite this week.
“I think you also have to be open-minded and flexible,” Dombrowski said. “It’s just like a couple years ago when in 2006, Verlander and Zumaya jumped up pretty good for us at that point. This guy [Rondon] is a talented guy. He’s a rare talent. You would not believe the number of clubs that called me about Bruce Rondon to trade him. If I had a choice of any young closer in baseball to give an opportunity to in any organization, it would be him. Now would be ready? I don’t know that. But he is that good.”
Here’s a roundup of the other remarks he had:
- Dombrowski was on the fence on whether Dirks has a full-time starting role for next year: ”Dirks is a good player. Is he an every-day player at this point? I don’t know. He might be. I know he’s a real good player. Can he combine with somebody? So I think we’ll just kind of look at that.”
- Dombrowski poo-poohed the idea that they could non-tender Brennan Boesch. “We’ll tender him a contract,” Dombrowski said. ”He’s not where we would like him to be at this point, because if we did he’d have been on our roster for the postseason, so that’s a pretty obvious summation. But I think it’s the case that he still has ability, he can still hit the ball out of the ballpark. We still see some untapped potential, and he has struggled some.”
- When asked what went wrong in the World Series, Dombrowski cited the offense, and pointed to an article that said they went 1-for-17 when putting pitches in play that were over the middle of the plate (not sure which article, otherwise I’d provide a link). “They pitched well,” Dombrowski said, “but we also didn’t hit the pitches we could handle. Why didn’t they do that? Was the timing a little bit off? Maybe. Did they keep off timing with the layover, did they keep them off-balance with the stuff that they threw, changing speeds? I’m sure that, too. Did they start pressing a little bit, try to do too much? Maybe a combination of all that. But it’s almost hard to believe when you say they went 1-for-17 on balls down the middle of the plate.”
- Quintin Berry will go into camp with a chance to compete for a spot on the roster. Coincidentally, Leyland said that with Victor Martinez back, they’ll have a use for a pinch-runner on their bench.
- The Tigers will designate Don Kelly for assignment later on this week, Dombrowski said, to open a spot on the 40-man roster. From there, clubs will have a chance to claim him, just as they did when the Tigers designated him in August. If he isn’t claimed, however, the Tigers would like to bring him back on a minor-league contract to compete for a roster spot. “He knows how well thought of he is here,” Dombrowski said. “But I also know that other people are in a position where somebody may offer him a better opportunity. That’s what guys look for when they’re free agents.”
- No comment on the status of Ryan Raburn, because Dombrowski hasn’t had a chance to talk with him yet. They still have him under team control for a year, so technically they don’t have to do anything if they want to keep him. If they want to use his roster spot for someone else, well, that’s another matter, and one they would probably want to talk with him about.
- Dombrowski did not want to get into the possibility of contract talks with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, both two years away from free agency. That’s a matter he still has to discuss with ownership. However, he said they’d like to have both for a long time.
- Avisail Garcia, Dombrowski said, is a “tough call” on whether he makes the roster next year. ”He has star potential,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a five-tool player. I’m not sure that he’s ready as a corner outfielder to give us the contributions that we need on an overall basis at this time, but I’m not sure that he’s not. He is going to play everyday in winter ball for Magglio’s team in Venezuela. I think he’s a guy that we’ll keep a real close eye on in how he develops over the wintertime.”
- If the Tigers can’t re-sign Sanchez, Dombrowski didn’t sound particularly strong about getting another starter to fill his spot, saying it would have to be a substantial improvement over what they have.
- Smyly would not be viewed as a full-time reliever.
- Dombrowski is not concerned about Scherzer going into the offseason. ”What happened,” Dombrowski said, “was [his shoulder] got tired like a lot of your muscles get tired, and it’s just more a mater of it needing some rest and then building it back up. So he got some rest and built it back up, but at that time period you don’t have a chance to go out there every five days and build it up. So the feeling is with Scherzer that he’ll be absolutely fine.”
- A second lefty reliever isn’t a high priority for the Tigers to acquire this winter. Dombrowski believes they can fill the spot in-house, though he didn’t rule out adding an arm.
Bruce Rondon and his triple-digit fastball allowed just two earned runs on 15 hits over 21 2/3 innings for Double-A Erie, essentially overmatching most of the Eastern League. The Tigers have decided to give him a new challenge by stepping him up a level with a month to go in the minor-league season.
Detroit made it official on Monday, promoting him from Erie to Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers have made no announcement nor statements about whether Rondon could end up being a September call-up to Detroit once rosters expand, but this move will probably fuel the speculation.
Rondon is 21 years old and has regularly topped 100 mph on radar guns at ballparks big and small. He hit 102 mph on the Kauffman Stadium radar gun at last month’s All-Star Futures Game. That kind of fastball, no doubt, can make an impact in the big leagues. The question is whether that impact will come this year.
“I’m just going to keep working hard and we will see what happens in the future,” Rondon told reporters at the Futures Game. “We don’t know what’s going happen tomorrow. All I can do this control how hard I work.”
The move coincides with an injury to Mud Hens closer Chris Bootcheck Sunday night. However, Tigers vice president/assistant GM Al Avila said in an email, “In our evaluation, Rondon was ready to be moved to Toledo.”