As time quickly evaporates to the trade deadline in a couple of weeks, the Tigers and their fans are searching for options in the much maligned bullpen. At this point, I’m not sure if the ridiculous suggestions have quite reached their peak, but I am certainly looking forward to more of them.
Meanwhile, despite some obvious issues from the left side, rookie Bruce Rondon has come up and helped solidify the struggling pen a bit. Rondon, has found a change up that appears to be working for him on occasion, and it has helped him hold opponents scoreless in five of his past six appearances. A confident and effective Rondon is important for bridging the gap from the sixth and seventh innings to get to Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit, who have both continued to be effective despite the change in roles.
Luke Putkonen has been a pleasant surprise, and while he isn’t perfect, long relief, along with Darin Downs seems like an acceptable duo to do a couple of low pressure innings when needed. Phil Coke seems like kind of a lost cause at this point, and is even been a bit rough against lefties lately, but he isn’t going anywhere. That leaves the spot currently occupied by Evan Reed.
Reed currently occupies what should be an important role in the Tigers pen. Should the Tigers be ahead in close games three days in a row, Rondon, Smyly, and Benoit aren’t going to pitch in all of those games. Someone has to step in. Yes, Putkonen could potentially do that, but the Tigers should look for someone more used to late inning pressure situations. They have that guy, problem is, he is another rookie.
Melvin Mercedes is a big 22 year old kid that is currently closing games for the AA Erie Seawolves. While others are discussing who we have to give up to acquire bullpen help, Mercedes has been quietly dominating the minor leagues this season. In high A Lakeland and AA Erie this season, Mercedes has 14 saves on the season, posting an ERA of 0.99. The real kicker is, Mercedes is already on the 40 man roster, so no real move is going to have to be made.
Mercedes is a big kid in the mold of Rondon, who doesn’t throw as hard. His breaking ball is a bit more effective, and while Mercedes doesn’t strike out near as many batters as Rondon, he actually throw strikes. Something that might be enticing to Jim Leyland.
I doubt that the Tigers are going to call him in the next few days before the trade deadline, but Mercedes is a guy that could be used in August to see if he could be an effective reliever down the stretch and into the playoffs. He certainly is worth a look, because the internal options are dwindling fast.
The hope is the Tigers can find some relief help within, because there is nothing more I hate than having to give up young players for relief help.