It’s no secret the Detroit Tigers‘ bullpen has been their weakest link this season, but it would look much more in order if Bruce Rondon continues to pound the strike zone.
Rondon showed why he was management’s selection to close games heading into the season Sunday against the Kansas City Royals. He tallied his third consecutive clean inning, capping it off with a 102-mph fastball. Rondon sat down three of the Royals’ top fastball hitters in Billy Butler, Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain in impressive fashion.
In his last three appearances, Rondon has tossed 3.2 innings without allowing a base-runner. He is making his case as the Tigers’ go-to eighth inning guy. He’s allowed just two earned runs in his last 8.1 innings and appears to be gaining confidence every time he takes the mound.
If Rondon can continue to keep his control in order, the Tigers have a pretty solid trio of relievers. They have Drew Smyly as the left-handed option to come into the game in relief of their starters. Smyly is an excellent change of pace from the Tigers’ starters, all five of which are right-handed, downhill type pitchers.
Assuming Rondon can continue to throw strikes, he is the antithesis of Smyly. He’s a right-handed flame-thrower with an intimidating heater.
And with the way Joaquin Benoit has pitched this season, there’s no reason they shouldn’t consider him their closer. He added another save Sunday while facing the minimum and appears to be as confident as ever.
The problem is, beyond these three guys, the Tigers don’t have much. Phil Coke has struggled as the Tigers’ other situational lefty and their other options don’t have enough experience to be considered sure-fire options. If the playoffs lasted only one game, they might be pretty comfortable with their bullpen as is. The problem is, it can last much longer than that.
Rondon’s success of late has to make Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski thrilled, but he knows the Tigers will have to add a little more depth if they want to continue to be a factor over the second half of the season. They can’t continue to count on three guys to do all the dirty work.