Many Tiger fans got their first look at Bruce Rondon in spring training when the 22-year-old Venezuelan was pushing radar guns into triple digits. His command wasn’t there though, and he was sent to AAA to begin the year. But that didn’t last long. Just like last season when he went from the Florida State League to the Eastern League to the International League, Rondon was on the move early again this year. Only this time it was to Detroit, where the future closer made his debut last night.
As expected, his stuff was electric, topping 100 five times in 19 pitches.
Unfortunately, he also gave up 3 hits, a run, and blew the 3-2 lead he inherited from Justin Verlander.
Welcome to the Show, kid.
Rondon is generally considered to be one of the Tigers top-5 prospects. He’s got a great fastball (which ranged from 96-101 in his debut), a decent slider, and a deceptive arm angle. Control is an issue, but he’s only 22.
The interesting thing to watch will be how much the Tigers put on his shoulders. Their bullpen has been awful this season with a 4.86 ERA (worst in the AL) so the innings are there.
Ideally, he could an 8th inning guy to get the ball to Jose Valverde – who is the player the Tigers’ brass hope that Rondon can eventually replace. But he could also easily find his way back in Toledo if he doesn't pitch well. To make room for Rondon the Tigers optioned fellow Venezuelan Brayan Villarreal (who had given up 10 runs in 4.1 innings) to Toledo. But Villarreal is young as well (just 25) and pitched 54 solid innings last year for the Tigers. It appears that Villarreal's mechanics are off, and if he recovers form while Rondon struggles, then they'll likely swap places again.