Bruce Rondon remains "a rare talent." But not one so rare as to win the closer's role on a major league team out of spring training having never pitched in the big leagues. Rondon, gifted with the ability to throw 103 m.p.h., was the biggest story for the Tigers during spring training until March 28. That's when president/general manager Dave Dombrowski notified a group of reporters standing outside the clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla., that the Tigers had set their pitching staff for the Opening Day roster and Rondon would not be included. So Rondon, who only a few weeks earlier was laughing and smiling while playing cards with several Tiger regulars around a table in the clubhouse in Lakeland, was sitting at a table in the middle of the clubhouse Thursday in Toledo before the Triple-A Mud Hens' home opener. Outfielder Nick Castellanos, arguably the only bigger talent in the minor league system than Rondon, served as Rondon's translator for a few minutes. "He didn't take the best advantage of the opportunity he was given," Castellanos said, after translating Rondon's answer to a question about being disappointed not to make the Tigers. Rondon, a native of Valencia, Venezuela, said through Castellanos that he's focused on working hard to improve so he can get called up. "As a competitor, you've got to get over that (disappointment)," Castellanos answered for Rondon, 22. It was Dombrowski who helped ignite the hype that Rondon, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound right-hander, possibly could be the Tigers' next closer during an October news conference after the Tigers were swept by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. The Tigers decided to part company with Jose Valverde, who had lost the closer's job with a dreadful postseason. (They have since signed Valverde to a minor league deal.) Rondon, the Tigers' minor league pitcher of the year in 2012, was at the front of the list of candidates Dombrowski thought could win the job. Rondon finished third among all minor league pitchers last season with 29 saves. At Class A Lakeland, Double-A Erie and Toledo, he was 2-1 with a 1.53 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 53 innings. "He's a rare talent," Dombrowski said in October as he repeatedly mentioning Rondon's chances of becoming the next closer. Dombrowski, manager Jim Leyland and several others in the organization eventually concluded in spring training that Rondon was too inconsistent and needed more development at Toledo.
Tigers' top prospect Bruce Rondon is focusing on harnessing his talent in Toledo
Detroit Free Press | Apr 14