If there was one thing the Detroit Tigers really wanted to get sewn up this Spring, it was finding a reliable closer to replace Jose Valverde. They thought they might have their man in untested rookie Bruce Rondon, but his struggles so far this Spring have possibly made the Tigers question if he’s ready.
Rondon is a 22-year-old Venezuelan with nitrous in his right arm, easily topping the 100-mph mark with his fastball. But in six outings during Spring Training this year, Rondon has allowed nine hits, three earned runs and five walks in 5 2/3 innings. The one bright spot is that he has struck out nine batters. But the struggles with Rondon’s control caused the Tigers to skip his last scheduled appearance to instead have him do a throwing session in the bullpen.
The young pitcher has yet to ever make an appearance in regular season MLB play, so the Tigers may have to resort to attempting a trade to find their closer. At this point in training camp, making trades can be difficult, but the Tigers’ supply of starting pitching might be enough to have a team sit down at the bargaining table. Rich Porcello springs to mind as one of the Tigers’ starters who could be made available.
Other options could include finding an available free agent such as Brian Wilson–who is unemployed and recovering from Tommy John surgery–and signing him to an incentive-heavy contract, or possibly promoting one of the veterans already in the Detroit bullpen–which would probably be manager Jim Leyland‘s least desirable option.
The Tigers’ bullpen is not exactly loaded with depth, and moving Phil Coke or Octavio Dotel into a closer role would put more pressure on the rest of the pen. The Tigers can only hope that young Rondon can find his groove by the time Grapefruit League play ends, and opening day arrives.