Bruce Rondon Optioned To Toledo, Darin Downs Wins Final Bullpen Spot


According to Tigers beat writer Jason Beck (and every other beat writer as well), the Tigers have optioned Bruce Rondon to the minor leagues.

Chris Iott also fills in the gaps, noting that Darin Downs has made the team and that Luis Marte has also been sent to Toledo.

It had appeared to me that perhaps Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland were leaning toward including Rondon on the roster until this past week. He had shown the flashes of potential greatness that we all hoped we’d see, but he also showed the wild inconsistence that made him such a risky proposition in the first place.

March 18, 2013; Viera, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Bruce Rondon (43) delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the spring training game at Space Coast Stadium. Detroit beat Washington 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough to say that one performance could or couldn’t get a player sent to the minor leagues, but Leyland probably didn’t like what he saw out of Rondon yesterday as he was pitching in back-to-back days. He struggled with command and struggled to retire hitters. In the end, he just wasn’t a guy they could trust to get high-leverage outs. That being said, I still expect to see him in Detroit at some point this season getting a few save opportunities.

Downs making the bullpen isn’t a complete shock – he’s pitched very well this spring – but it creates an interesting question. The Tigers probably can’t afford to use him only as a low-leverage LOOGY while also using Drew Smyly only as a long reliever. That would tax the other bullpen members far too much. We’re going to have to see either one – or perhaps both – participate as part of the normal middle relief corps getting regular medium, and even high, leverage opportunities.

With Phil Coke apparently in the closer mix (or committee, rather), some of his late-inning LOOGY-ness could be shifted to Downs who’s dominated lefties in his big league time. I think this set of moves gives the bullpen incredible flexibility. Rondon would have been fun to watch, but he’s probably isn’t ready for the show, and I can’t really argue that the team doesn’t have the 12 best pitchers set to head north.

So now we have:

Rotation (no particular order):
Justin Verlander
Max Scherzer
Doug Fister
Anibal Sanchez
Rick Porcello

Joaquin Benoit
Phil Coke
Octavio Dotel
Al Alburquerque
Brayan Villarreal
Drew Smyly
Darin Downs