The Detroit Tigers‘ plan to go into the 2013 season with their highly-touted rookie isn’t going nearly as well as envisioned.
Well, that is, unless the team envisioned Bruce Rondon to be a mess in Spring Training right now.
The 22-year old has had four outings, and after of his first one-inning scoreless debut, things have only gotten worse. Rondon has given up five hits over 3.2 innings thus far with six strikeouts to his name, which isn’t so bad on its own.
The whopping five walks to go with that, on the other hand, makes the prospect a liability more than an asset on the mound right now. It hasn’t gotten to the point where the team is really to hit the panic button, however:
Sorry, Jose Valverde.
Truth is, the Tigers don’t really need to be overly concerned even if Rondon doesn’t quite come along as hoped. The team does have good in-house options like Joaquin Benoit, who posted a 3.68/1.14 ERA/WHIP with a 10.65 K/9 in 2012. They could also go with wild card reliever Al Alburquerque, who has been very good in his 56.2 innings at the major league level thus far, and has thrown well so far this spring.
Speaking of options that are throwing well in spring, the Tigers also have Phil Coke, who was the chosen one to replace Valverde in the playoffs last season. The swingman is far too hittable (.314 BAA, 1.65 WHIP) to be considered a top option if Detroit wants someone more prototypical of a closer in the ninth, but the fact that he was the man in 2012 says something about his rapport with manager Jim Leyland.
Not all hope is lost for Valverde, though. Should Rondon continue to struggle with his command and location in spring, the team will likely take time to look for a bullpen arm while they send their prized prospect back to the minors.
Leyland, being the type of manager he is, has probably already been giving GM Dave Dombrowski subtle nudges towards the as-yet-unemployed former Tigers closer.
For now, Dombrowski is resisting picking up that phone. With every walk that Rondon gives out, that may change soon enough.