Where were you on the evening of September 24, 2013? If you are like me, a Detroit Tigers’ fan living with two young children, you were likely flipping between Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and the Tigers-Minnesota Twins game.
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If you are Bruce Rondon, you remember exactly where you were, setting up Joaquin Benoit and striking out the side to earn your fifth hold of the season in the eighth inning of a 5-2 victory at Target Field. Little did Rondon know that those would be his last major league pitches for nearly two years.
Rondon will be added to the Detroit Tigers’ big league roster for the first time this season. Seeing as how the Tigers’ bullpen got battered in their last game, if Alfredo Simon cannot go six or seven innings this afternoon against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park, he will probably get the call.
The 24-year-old has had an interesting journey between major league pitches. Arm issues that were thought to be minor kept Rondon on the shelf for the rest of the regular season and into the postseason, which ended with a defeat to the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 of the ALCS.
He pitched a little bit in Spring Training of 2014 before being shutdown. A few days later it was announced he would undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and would miss all of 2014.
It was a huge blow for the Tigers’ bullpen, which was quite a turnaround from 12 months earlier. With Jose Valverde falling apart in the 2012 postseason, Detroit chose not to bring their closer back for 2013, but they had no true closer on the roster. They decided to turn to hard-throwing and promising prospect Rondon to serve in the role, but he didn’t even make the team out of Lakeland.
He was called up in late April and made his major league debut but was bounced back to the minors after posting an ERA near 12.00 in three appearances.
The Tigers rolled the dice in late June and brought him up and he really came into his own, becoming one of the most reliable options in a terrible Detroit bullpen. From June 30 through September 24, spanning 25 appearances, he allowed just seven earned runs.
We as fans can only look back as what could have been if a very reliable Rondon was in the Detroit bullpen during the two collapses in Fenway Park. I truly believe, if not for the bullpen in Game 2 and Game 6, the Tigers would have won it all that season. They were truly built to win that year.
Those are now distant memories as the Tigers and Rondon live in the now. He has put together a couple of nice outings in Toledo after getting bombed during his rehab stint before he was designated to the Mud Hens to get right.
The bullpen is once again the weak link on this team so a healthy and reliable Rondon would be a breath of fresh air.
This stint is very important for not only Rondon, but also the Tigers. With Joakim Soria struggling lately and his status as a free agent next year, this could be an audition for the job that was handed to him and then revoked two years ago.