The Bruce Rondon era for the Detroit Tigers is on hold.
Just one day after Tigers manager Jim Leyland openly talked about his worry about the closers role to start the season, CBS Sports.com Baseball Insider, Danny Knobler, writes Tuesday that the Tigers are openly looking to acquire a closer via trade.
The Rondon experiment was a of roll the dice from the very start.
Without ever throwing a pitch at the major-league level, the 22-year-old hard throwing Venezuelan was expected to start the year as the Tigers ninth-inning main man.
Control issues, however, have plagued Rondon in his four spring training appearances.
In 3.2 innings, Rondon walked five batters while striking out six. Add the five hits allowed and he carries a WHIP of 2.727.
The main concern appears to be the lack of strikes. Even with such a small sample size, Rondon has a walk rate of 12.3 per nine. A closer look at his minor-league statistics shows that he struggles when reaching a new level.
With the Single-A West Michigan club in 2011, Rondon walked 34 in 40 innings, good enough for a 7.6 walks per nine.
With Toledo—the Tigers Triple-A club last year—he walked seven in eight innings, topping out at 7.9 walks per nine.
Rondon was able to succeed at West Michigan because he simply did not allow base hits. In that 40 innings, Rondon only allowed 22 hits and zero home runs. When you throw in the 61 strikeouts recorded in that number, Rondon’s wildness never came back to hurt him.
Rondon had better control last year in stints with Advanced-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie. In 45 innings with those clubs, Rondon only walked 19. While not outstanding, the walks per nine ratio dropped to roughly 3.8.
The Tigers gambled that he would be able to harness his wildness and—if these reports are true—lost.
After an offseason that saw starting pitcher Rick Porcello offered to anyone who would listen, the Tigers came to spring training without an offer they were willing to take.
What started with Rondon being pulled from his next scheduled appearance to Leyland’s comments on the radio to in effect start trade negotiations via the media has turned what should have been a quiet spring training into a circus.
There are other closers on the market.
UPDATE: (h/t fellow Tigers Featured Columnist Brett Kaplan)
Former Tiger closer José Valverde is also available via free agency along with Francisco Rodriguez if the Tigers want to go that route and not make a trade.
Whatever leverage the Tigers might have had this winter in trying to get a new closer has disappeared.
With general manager Dave Dombrowski and Leyland not comfortable with any of their internal options to use as closer, the Tigers have very publicly told the rest of the American League that they have a gaping hole.
For a team where so much is expected, this is not the way anyone wanted to start.
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