Detroit Tigers: Dombrowski Made a Huge Mistake with Rondon

Josh BerenterCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2013

March 26, 2013; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Bruce Rondon (43) throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers have a huge mess on their hands.

And general manager Dave Dombrowski is to blame.

On Thursday morning, MLive.com's Chris Iott reported that the Tigers optioned expected-closer Bruce Rondon to Triple-A Toledo.

Dombrowski raved about Rondon all offseason, stating the unproven rookie has an unhittable fastball that tops 102 mph, but the apparently unhittable pitch was less than successful for the 22-year-old rookie this spring.

Rondon had a 5.84 ERA in 12 and 1/3 innings over 13 appearances.

He had trouble with his control, allowing nine walks in Spring Training, and although he also had 19 strikeouts, the negative flaws proved to be more apparent than the positive potential.

In the short term, the Tigers will depend on a bevy of options at closer including Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, Brayan Villarreal, and possibly others.

"It's maybe different, unusual, but it doesn't mean it won't work," Dombrowski said to Iott after announcing the move. "I feel comfortable with the abilities out there."

The Tigers' bullpen was fantastic last season, with the exception of departed closer Jose Valverde, but with relievers going into the season unaware of their roles, Detroit could be in trouble.

Closing games in a pennant race is no easy task, and appointing a closer-by-committee model isn't a popular way to go about winning a division title.

Dombrowski made a huge mistake not going after a proven closer in free agency this offseason, and it's come back to bite him.

It was clear Rondon wasn't going to be ready after his first few appearances this spring, and still, the Tigers did nothing.

Detroit was going into Opening Day on Monday as a runaway favorite to win the American League Central, but with this news just four days away from the season opener, the Tigers have more uncertainty than they'd like.

"We have good pitchers," Dombrowski said. "We have guys that can close games. The difference really right now is we don't have the guy that, every day, you give him the ball."

Yeah. Maybe you should've taken care of that earlier, Dombrowski.