To preface: Spring Training stats are, for the most part, pretty useless. Pitchers routinely go on record saying that their sole purpose is to work on particular pitches during an outing, so the seven hits and three runs they gave up don’t mean too much. Hitters may be working on a certain adjustment to their swings, and that adjustment could take weeks to pay dividends. So, really, when some scrub leads the Cactus League with eight homers, it is definitely not a guarantee that he’ll lead the American League in homers, or even make the big league roster.
Having said that: ZOMG WHAT’S WRONG WITH BRUCE RONDON??
March 3, 2013; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Bruce Rondon (43) throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves at ESPN Disney Wide World of Sports complex, Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
There has been a wave of speculation regarding Rondon’s proclivity towards walking batters and allowing runs. The most recent reports are saying that the Tigers will be skipping his next appearance to give him time to work on his mechanics, and that in turn led to a mass panic that Detroit won’t have their thunder-armed prospective closer finishing out ball games when the regular season starts up.
Is it really fair to push the panic button this early? Rondon is 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in four Grapefruit League appearances so far this spring. He’s faced 21 hitters, and ten have reached base on five hits and five walks, and the other six have struck out. Striking out just over half the hitters he’s faced? Gooood. Allowing that many baserunners? Ugh.
Truth be told? This is a kid who’s only pitched eight innings above AA-ball, he’s got an arm that resembles a fire hose, and he’s probably feeling the heat of having been anointed the closer so early in his career. It’s not fair for beat writers, analysts, and even fans to think this guy could be the next Craig Kimbrel so soon – he’s still trying to learn how to pitch at an extremely competitive level.
If anything, I think he should spend another season, or at the very least half a season, in AAA. He needs to be out of the spotlight and in an environment where he can continue to work on his craft and develop his repertoire. The Tigers have a score of gents who can step up and close games, as we’ve already covered here.
There shouldn’t be a panic-button here, nor should there be talk of him starting the season as the closer. Let him develop at his own pace, and rely on Phil Coke or Joaquin Benoit early on. It’d be a shame to set back such an exciting prospect.