Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 7/12/13
DETROIT -- No one is preparing a Hall of Fame plaque for him or even referring to him as a SharkNado (yet), but Bruce Rondon is going to help the Tigers this season. Rondon started the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers with a 7-2 lead, relieving starter Doug Fister. Rondon threw 10 pitches, all for strikes as he got four straight outs before handing the game to Drew Smyly. "That's a Catch-22," manager Jim Leyland said. "We want to make sure he throws strikes but we want to make sure he doesn't throw too many. He's doing great. It's a little difficult but we're kind of breaking him in, we're breaking him into some nice situations and he's really responding. I'm really proud of him." Rondon was able to mix his pitches and use his 100 mile-an-hour fastball when he wanted to, as he did when he struck out Nelson Cruz. "The difference was the consistency in my pitches, the slider, breaking ball and everything," Rondon said through a translator. "Joaquin Benoit has really guided me through that consistency." Benoit said he has tried to explain to Rondon that with his ability, he doesn't always have to throw strikes to get outs. "You don't have to really do much when you throw as hard as he does," Benoit said. "They won't recognize 100 miles an hour. It's a gift and if he can use it better, instead of throwing a lot of strikes, you make it look like a strike and they're going to swing at it." Rondon learned that lesson the hard way the other day against the White Sox's Gordon Beckham. He had Beckham down 0-2 in the count and then left a pitch out over the plate. "Those are the things you've got to learn but it's hard to give him a crash course up here," Leyland said. "He knew what I was talking about, he told me that's what he was trying to do, he just didn't get it there. Sometimes when you're trying to overthrow it, you get your body out front and your arm lags behind and you leave it in the middle of the plate and that's what he did to Beckham." Beckham hit the pitch for a home run. Despite that instance, Rondon has been a different pitcher than he was the first time he got called up early in the season. "In the beginning, when I first came up, I didn't feel completely confident in all my pitches," Rondon said. "I've felt better and better every outing." Benoit has helped Rondon learn that he can't expect to be flawless, not in the big leagues. "It's good that he got control of his pitches but it's not necessary to be perfect," Benoit said. "It's something that he's doing better. In the beginning he was just throwing hard, trying to get people out, trying to fool everybody. "But this is the major leagues, everybody's going to make adjustments. He listens really well and I think he's going to succeed now that he's getting the rhythm of what he's supposed to be doing." The Tigers have gotten solid work out of Benoit and Smyly, but have seen Al Alburquerque and Phil Coke struggle this season. That, along with the injury to Octavio Dotel, has made the bullpen the team's Achilles heel in the first half. Perhaps the growth of Rondon could help, at least while Alburquerque works to gain consistency and Coke works to get out of his slump. But Leyland doesn't want Rondon worrying about too much right now. "I just want him to settle in and relax, because he's got the equipment to help us," Leyland said. "He is getting a little more confidence. He's still in that stage where the confidence is growing, but you've got to find out if they can get over the hump when something doesn't go right, if they can go out there the next time and be good again." In his last six outings, Rondon has a 3.00 ERA, lowering his season ERA to 6.00. Rondon's confidence is growing and he's getting valuable experience, experience that could benefit the team. "As long as he keeps doing whatever he's doing, he's working hard every day, he comes here early and do his early work, I think with his arm and the way he's taking everything right now, he's going to be a big help for us," Benoit said.
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