Bruce Rondon has nothing left to prove in Triple A. The minor leagues aren’t a challenge. He throws too hard for anyone to handle him. Tons of strikeouts, but also his share of walks. He hardly ever gave up runs, and has only allowed a few homers.
There’s just nothing left to prove. He might not be major league ready, but we’ll never know without putting him feet first into the fire. The Tigers bullpen has been taxed as the starters have stubbed their toes in the last few days and they needs reinforcements. The hot hand and the top relief prospect is the fireballing Rondon. It’s time.
I don’t know who he’s replacing just yet and I don’t know how Leyland plans to use him, but I have a suspicion we’ll see him pitching as the “closer” sooner rather than later. He’s exactly what Leyland and Dombrowski value in a closer. He throws hard, is kind of erratic, and has a “closer mentality.” I think most of that is nonsense, but I think he has what it takes to succeed in leverage situations, so I’m not going to cause a big fuss.
He’s going to strike batters out, but he’s going to walk some too. If you squint, you’ll probably think it’s Jose Valverde circa 2010 with a little extra on his fastball.
More than anything, he seems ready. I wrote a few weeks ago about how Castellanos should get the call when he’s ready, not when it makes financial sense. The same is true for Rondon. It’s especially true for Rondon because relievers have short shelf lives. Relievers are relievers because they’re fragile or have a limited repertoire, so let’s get all we can from them before they lose it.
Velocity peaks early, so let’s get everything we can out of his 100 mph arm. He averages 99.3 mph during his 2 inning stint in Detroit earlier this season. The slider is a good pitch, but the command is a problem. To get big leaguers out, he’s going to half to pitch against them. You can’t learn by facing hitters who can’t touch your fastball.
It’s time. It’s time to see what he has and give him a shot to learn. It’s also time for him to come under the tutelage of Jeff Jones, who might be some type of changeup and/or strikeout savant. (Also, this, this, and this)
Don’t overreact to his first appearance, good or bad. Don’t make up your mind based on small samples. Let’s go to Rondon and see what he can do. And remember, don’t look at saves.
But do look at SOEFA, the new reliever stat from New English D.