Few, if any, Tigers fans wanted to see Jose Valverde in the Old English D after his repeated implosions during the 2012 playoffs.

Forget watching him close the ninth inning. Nobody wanted to see him pitching in the eighth, seventh sixth or fifth innings, either.

No lead was too big to be safe with Valverde on the mound. That statement did not even feel like an exaggeration when he blew a four-run lead in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Yankees.

Yet it seems unlikely people envisioned the Tigers would enter the 2013 season, a year the team is supposed to win it all, with a rookie in the catbird seat for the ninth inning.

Jim Leyland might say otherwise now, telling media that the role of closer will not even be decided by the end of spring training.

But his boss, Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, sure spent a lot of time this offseason talking up Rondon's capabilities.

"We're not anointing him," Dombrowski said during the West Michigan Whitecaps' annual dinner in Grand Rapids last month. "But he's a leading candidate for the job, which we think he can do."