He threw hard, but not his hardest.

He threw well, but it's far too early for him to be at his best.

Bruce Rondon, the right-hander who hasn't been named the Tigers' closer yet but will be given an excellent chance to win the job, faced hitters in batting practice for the first time this spring Sunday.

He threw 31 pitches, not all of which were swung at — and even fewer were hit. Two of the balls hit off him might have gone for singles in a game, but it wasn't a game.

It wasn't anything but his first time on the mound with a batter in the box — and not exactly the Tigers' regulars, either.

The big boys were hitting on another field.

Rondon didn't throw to Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder or Victor Martinez. He threw mostly to minor leaguers.

"Obviously, my hitting coach worked it out strategically," manager Jim Leyland said. "We try to think things out."

And while the Tigers' hierarchy didn't want to make much of it — Leyland, for instance, watched from where Rondon couldn't see him and general manager Dave Dombrowski divided his observation time between Rick Porcello's outing and Rondon's — the outing was impressive.

"His fastball has life, and he's got that good breaking ball," said Jeff Kobernus, a right-handed-hitting infielder who'll be tried in left field this spring by the Tigers.

"We're just starting to see live arms, but he looked good. His slider was real sharp.

"I faced him a few times last year and I know he's always had that fastball. But if he keeps his breaking ball tight, and also keeps it down like he did today, he'll be tough to hit."

As for watching from behind the screen that's behind the cage, Leyland said, "I didn't want the kid thinking I was staring at him.

"But I watched quite a bit of his session."

He also watched hefty Melvin Mercedes follow Rondon to the mound — two big, young pitchers throwing batting practice, back to back.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130218/SPORTS0104/302180345#ixzz2LFah7jjE