Now that the announcement has been made that Bruce Rondon will begin the season in Toledo, you’ll be hearing a lot from the Tigers media that we should expect to see him in Detroit soon. The opposite is also true: it shouldn’t surprise you if Rondon stays in Toledo for a good long while. He has great, raw stuff and he is a highly watched prospect so IF he’s more likely to get the call than a guy like Jose Ortega if his small-sample numbers down there look good over the next month. It’s just far from a given that Rondon will fare well against AAA opponents.
March 26, 2013; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Bruce Rondon (43) throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
What Rondon showed (in, admittedly, a smallish number of innings) the Tigers this spring, and the reason why he won’t be part of the 25-man roster to begin the season, is that though he can strike out a big league hitter he hasn’t overcome the walk monster and that when big-leaguers DO make contact they can do plenty with those pitches. Some guys get sent down to Toledo because something minor in their mechanics wasn’t working, that had worked before – if they fix that glitch, they’ll get called up. Some guys get sent down due to bad luck more than anything else, if they keep doing what they were doing they’ll put up better numbers and get called up later. Rondon doesn’t fit into either of those, he’s in the third group (as are most prospects), the guys that actually need to get better at baseball to be worthy of that call. He may do that, and he might develop a little bit better feel for a breaking ball and that’s all it would take. It’s just that – from the sound of it – he’ll have to show that he’s able to consistently do things that he hasn’t shown the ability to consistently do before. If he doesn’t, he might just struggle in AAA; a place where a lot of guys can hold off on breaking balls that they know you can’t throw for strikes and a lot of guys can hit straight heat down the middle of the plate if you fall behind in the count.
His talent, unfortunately, means that if he can get a few things figured out he could be very, very good – it doesn’t mean much as concerns the likelihood of figuring any of those things out. He could also simply get lucky and get called up based on those illusory, small-sample numbers… so it’s still exceedingly likely that we’ll see Rondon at some point in Detroit before the break, but don’t imagine that it’s a given.