The Detroit Tigers were trying to put together back to back sweeps Wednesday. After clawing back from a 3-0 deficit to cut the lead to just one against the Minnesota Twins, their bullpen let them down once again.
Bruce Rondon came into the game in relief of Anibal Sanchez to start the seventh inning. Sanchez struggled in the first inning, going to at least three-ball counts with the first five hitters, but was able to find his groove over the later innings. With his pitch count climbing to 115, Sanchez was forced to leave the game despite the fact that he was starting to handle Twins’ hitters with relative ease.
Rondon was able to record only one out while walking two hitters and throwing only five strikes out of his 17 pitches. In a nutshell, he was wild. The Tigers were so unimpressed with Rondon they sent him to Toledo almost immediately after the game.
The Tigers then brought in Darin Downs. Downs didn’t struggle as much as Rondon, but he did show that he is more of a specialist than a long-inning reliever. When the time is right, Downs can be just the right guy to change the pace on opposing hitters, but adapting to different situations may be difficult for him.
On the bright side, the Tigers called up Jose Ortega who was stifling hitters at Triple-A Toledo through the early part of the season. Ortega looked like the type of reliever coaches love to have in the bullpen. He was able to pound the strike zone and had adequate zip on his fastball, which hovered around 97 MPH.
Phil Coke’s trip to the disabled list made room for Ortega, which could prove to be a blessing in disguise. Ortega doesn’t have much in the way of secondary pitches, but his fastball is exactly what you want from a closer.
The Tigers have room for another reliever with Rondon heading out of town for what could and probably should be an extended stay in the minors.
The Tigers took a five-game winning streak into Wednesday’s series finale. They were aided by exceptional starting pitching over those games, and weren’t forced to call on their bullpen in too many dangerous situations. While Ortega’s 1-2-3 ninth inning wasn’t in a high pressure situation, the Tigers will feel good about adding him to the bullpen for the time being.
That won’t be enough as they will now have yet another spot to fill.