After Jose Valverde lost the closer job in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series last season, the Detroit Tigers have been looking for their starting closer for the future. If that person is rookie Bruce Rondon, can he succeed in the role this year?
The Tigers are determined to get back to the World Series and win it this time around. They have added a few key additions and re-signed quality players to make them quite possibly the most dangerous team in all of Major League Baseball. The batting order of Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez alone will win Detroit plenty of games in 2013. However, with everyone in place, the last thing the Tigers want is to lose games because of a ninth inning meltdown.
The 22-year old Rondon has never suited up for a Major League game, and yet he is going to be playing one of the most important positions on a championship-caliber team. In 52 games in three separate levels in the minors last season, he posted a 2-1 record with a 1.53 earned run average, 66 strikeouts and 29 saves in 52 appearances. However, does that mean he is ready for the big leagues?
Detroit has essentially decided to throw Rondon into the majors and see if he will sink or swim. The Tigers are hoping that he can learn enough in spring training and gain the appropriate amount of confidence to take on baseball’s best in the heart-pounding moments of the game.
Detroit will be leading a majority of their games into the ninth inning, but it will be all up to Rondon to bring them home. This is clearly putting a lot of pressure on someone who has never gotten their feet wet, but the Tigers are betting that the youngster will pull through in a big way.
If, for whatever reason, Rondon is unable to fulfill his duties as the closer, Detroit at least has a few other options in their bullpen to take over. However, I believe Rondon will be able to perform at a high level due to his ability to strikeout batters at will, and the fact that he has that freshness that most young successful closers typically have.