Bruce Rondon pitched quite effectively in relief for the Tigers in 2016, especially late in the second half, posting a 1.69 ERA over the final two-plus months. With a huge 275-pound frame and a fastball occasionally touching triple digits, Rondon has consistently struck out batters throughout his career (10.4 K/9), although he's struggled to throw strikes (career 3.9 BB/9). He's also dealt with several injuries. Rondon's improved command in 2016 comes amidst an increased reliance on his slider, throwing it 37 percent of the time. Opponents recorded just six hits off the pitch in 2016, and it accounted for 67 percent of his strikeouts. With prototypical closer stuff, Rondon will be itching for a shot at closing in 2017. Unfortunately, the Tigers picked up the option for veteran Francisco Rodriguez, who saved 44 games for them last year. If K-Rod has to miss time or is traded, however, Rondon has the stuff to assume the job.
Rondon was optioned to Triple-A Toledo on Monday. Rondon has struggled early on this season, allowing six earned runs with three walks over his last two games alone. The 26-year-old will head down to Triple-A in an attempt to iron out his issues, while the team will bring up Joe Jimenez from Toledo to fill his spot on the roster.
Rondon was charged with the loss Sunday against the Red Sox, allowing three earned runs on a hit and two walks, while not recording a single out. Rondon entered in the eighth inning with the Tigers up 4-3, and the wheels quickly came off. After a leadoff walk followed by a hit, Rondon intentionally walked Mitch Moreland to load the bases. Rondon was pulled at that point, but Kyle Ryan was unable to limit the damage. Following rough outings on Friday and Sunday, Rondon's ERA is at an unsightly 40.50 to begin the year.
Rondon allowed two hits, a walk and three earned runs while recording just a single out against the Red Sox on Friday. Rondon was solid in his first outing of the season, but his second outing didn't go as well. The 26-year-old had the best season of his career in 2016, posting a 2.97 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, so this is probably just a blip on the radar.
The Tigers will be watching Rondon's velocity when he pitches for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, MLB.com reports. In his last outing Sunday, Rondon was sitting around 93-95 mph with his fastball. That's not bad for a lot of pitchers, but Rondon has shown he can get higher on the radar gun. "He's got it in him to throw 100 [mph]," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said, "and maybe he's just kind of easing himself into it now and doesn't want to let the air out of it too early, but it wouldn't shock me if he got into a game with some adrenaline in him and went up a tick or more." It's not unusual for pitchers to ramp up slowly during spring training, so expect Rondon to add velocity in the coming weeks.
Rondon is working on improving his changeup in spring training, MLB.com reports. Rondon used primarily fastballs and sliders to post a 2.97 ERA and strike out 45 batters in 36.1 innings last year. He threw his changeup just 3.4 percent of the time last year, and Rondon called it a "so-so" pitch. If he can improve his changeup, Rondon could post even better numbers in 2017 with a solid three-pitch mix.
|vs CHI. WHITE SOX||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|@ COMERICA PARK||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|