On The Detroit Tigers' Bullpen Troubles

By Eric Carlisle
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Rondon is thought to be the closer for the Detroit Tigers in 2013. A scary thought for Tiger fans, considering he has never played in a big league game. There are a ton of other issues in the bullpen besides the closer role, though. Detroit will need to figure a lot of things out once spring training starts.

Rondon appears to be a stud that’s ready to make the leap into the big leagues, but will the lights be too bright too soon for the young man? He played in nine games in Triple-A Toledo last year and had a 1-0 record with a 2.25 ERA. Pretty solid minor league numbers for the 22-year-old right hander, but in a very small sample size. At all levels last year Rondon went 2-1 with a 1.53 ERA with 29 saves – promising numbers, but I don’t know if I’m sold on the idea of him being the closer for the Tigers.

The closer role is one like no other and there are so many mind games that are played. I don’t know if he’s ready for that just yet, I would like to see him get a little time under his belt first.

Outside of the closer position, the bullpen in general isn’t that strong. The locks in the pen are Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, and Phil Coke. Also included will probably be Al Alburquerque, but after that it’s really up in the air. Whoever doesn’t get the final starting spot will likely also move to the bullpen, that being either Drew Smyly or Rick Porcello.

The best case for the bullpen might be Smyly since he’s a left hander. The only other lefty in the pen is Coke, so the Tigers will need some more lefty help in the back end for situational matchups. After this past year, Smyly seems to be a talented young man who will have a bright future in the majors anywhere he’s placed. I would like to see him in the rotation but he would be a very nice addition to the bullpen. Another name that could be in the mix is Brayan Villarreal, who has some major heat in his fastball but needs to work on his secondary pitches to become a go-to guy out of the pen.

No matter what, the Tigers have their work cut out for them in the bullpen, and they will need to get some guys developed quickly. They have strong starting pitching but they can’t go eight or nine innings every game, so they need to get the bullpen sorted out soon.

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