Rookie closer Bruce Rondon entered spring training as the heavy favorite to become the Detroit Tigers' closer in 2013. After three appearances so far, Rondon is what most thought he would be. He has an overpowering fastball, control issues and needs to incorporate more breaking balls.
We've seen the good Rondon and the bad Rondon, usually in the same inning. The question remains, are the Tigers still content entering the season with him as closer?
Rondon gave up a run in his third appearance of spring training against the New York Mets on March 1. He got himself into a jam by walking Ruben Tejada before David Wright hit an RBI single.
Rondon's line in spring training so far is 2.2 innings, three hits, four walks and five strikeouts (via Detroit Free Press).
Three games is a small sample size from which to judge Rondon, but the 1.25 K/BB ratio is alarming for a supposed strikeout closer who is expected to shut down opposing lineups in quick fashion.
Another knock on Rondon is his 5.1 BB/9 ratio in the minor leagues and through his 2.2 innings of work, nothing has changed to alleviate that concern.
The Tigers wouldn't be doing their jobs if they weren't having some sort of internal discussions about easing Rondon into the closer role by starting him out in a less pressure situation.
Rondon still needs to get adjusted to facing major league hitters and by allowing him to pitch in the sixth and seventh innings, the Tigers can control which batters he faces and what types of situations he's utilized in.
In the interim, the Tigers could have Al Alburquerque fill in as closer. Alburquerque has a deceptive pitching motion that helped to produce a 13.5 K/9 ratio in the major leagues. While his career 5.9 BB/9 ratio is high, Alburquerque has held batters to a career .140 batting average.
If the Tigers decide not to go with Alburquerque, there are still other options available to consider, like Phil Coke, who handled the closer duties in the ALCS.
Regardless, Rondon may be the Tigers' closer of the future, but counting on him in 2013 could prove to be too much pressure on him and too big of a risk for the Tigers to take. While Rondon might blow batters away in some games, who knows if he'll be consistent every game. That is why the Tigers need to start thinking seriously about other options.
The sooner the Tigers choose a new closer, the sooner that pitcher can start adjusting to his new role. Rondon can then focus on fine-tuning his pitches so that he can eventually become the closer.
*All statistics are as of March 1
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