Friday afternoon was my first opportunity to really get a good look at potential Detroit Tigers closer Bruce Rondon in action. I saw him pitch in the Futures Game last year but this was different.
The 22-year old rookie-to-be has been all but anointed the closer for the 2013 Detroit Tigers. His calling card is his triple digits fastball and his ability to work in his off-speed stuff. Control issues have been his bugaboo.
His 1-inning stint went like this:
Strikeout on a decent slider down and in off the plate
A quick popout to 3rd base
During a drawn out walk to Ruben Tejada the baserunner stole 2nd on him and Brayan Pena’s terrible throw and then advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch
Got in trouble against David Wright and had to come with a fastball down the middle, which was mid 90’s and rifled to left by Wright for an RBI single
Quick groundout to 2nd base off the bat of Ike Davis
A few things became quickly obvious during this outing. First off, he displayed no command of his breaking pitches. He threw several sliders and changeups and missed with all of the ones that I saw. He does throw hard but the biggest reading on the stadium gun I saw was 99. He was more often around 95-97 with a heater that he often missed high and to his right, the sign of not following through with his lead shoulder.
On top of that, his demeanor didn’t seem overly impressive. I’m ok with a lack of intensity if he’s mowing people down but he wasn’t and he seemed to be trying hard to gather himself. He took several big, deep breaths in between pitches while working at a Valverdian-pace. The deep breaths served a purpose and are a good sign from a young player trying to reel it in, but they offered less conviction than the master deep-breather – Phil Coke.
So what do we take away from an outing on March 1? Mainly that he has quite a bit of work to do between now and Opening Day. In one month he must find the electric arsenal that I was expecting to see, but didn’t. He must find a way to work at least one of his breaking balls into the strike zone with regularity.
As of now, I think he is still the frontrunner for the closing gig in Detroit, but my faith was shaken by what I saw today. Was this a guy I foresee getting big outs in October? No, certainly not. Can he grow into that player? Yes. Do the Tigers want to give him the keys and be at the mercy of a shaky wheel and 2-footed driver? We’ll see.
It’s only March 1st.
To receive an email each time a new Tigers article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form
[Follow me on Twitter @isportsJoe]