The Tigers love power arms. It’s why they still love Bruce Rondon. The Tigers have a pitching staff capable of shattering records for strikeouts. When you have guys who can make batters regularly miss on two-strike pitches, you cherish them. You offer them a little longer leash. But Rondon got yanked again Wednesday. After another disappointing effort from the 22-year-old flamethrower, the Tigers sent their would-be closer back to Triple-A Toledo. But considering the rookie’s poor location, would it surprise anyone if he overshot Toledo and wound up in Sandusky? “He’s just not ready for this,” manager Jim Leyland said after a 6-2 loss to Minnesota in which Rondon’s ineffectiveness in keeping a suddenly close game tight weighed heavily in the outcome. “When I say that, please don’t think anybody’s down on him. We think he’s a future closer at the major league level. But I can’t get him enough work right now.” Rondon torturously teased fans in his one-third of an inning against the Twins. He pushed his fastball to 100 m.p.h. and beyond on a couple of occasions. Of course, it would have been nice if he had thrown more of those pitches remotely close to the strike zone, or that those reasonably in the vicinity weren’t rocketed into play. Basically, he blew the game Wednesday afternoon. He threw 17 pitches — only five of which were strikes. The Tigers had scored twice in the sixth, closing the gap to 3-2. This was what fans have come to expect from this team. No lead is insurmountable. Give the Tigers a chance, particularly with the top half of the batting order, and a comeback always is possible. The Twins, although they still held the lead, were no doubt a little shaky approaching the top of the seventh. But then Rondon gave back the momentum with, in order, a triple, a single, a stolen base, a flyout and two walks. He would be charged with two runs. Rondon, who still has logged only 152/3 career innings at Triple-A, must learn the difference between pitching and throwing. It’s certainly impressive that he can hit triple digits on the radar gun, but until he can figure out that he can be more effective ramping down the velocity to 94 and 95 to concentrate on better location, he won’t come close to reaching his immense potential. The Tigers did the right thing in elevating him from Toledo. After seven scoreless outings there, Rondon earned the opportunity to prove what he had learned from a disappointing Florida spring. Adversity remains the greatest educational tool for relievers — especially those possibly entrusted with ninth-inning responsibilities in the future.
Despite demotion, Tigers' Bruce Rondon isn't finished
Detroit Free Press | May 2