Detroit Tigers Player Profile: Bruce Rondon
John Lennon once sang: “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” This statement could be the motto for the Detroit Tigers pitcher Bruce Rondon.
Picked up by Dave Dombrowski, Rondon was supposed to be the future of the Detroit Tigers bullpen. The ace closer. But, life has truly gotten in Rondon’s way. Now that the Detroit Tigers have a bullpen that is already earning respect, life might just get a bit easier for the 25-year-old right-handed pitcher.
Bruce Rondon began his time with the Detroit Tigers organization in 2007 when they signed him as an amateur free agent from Venezuela. He has pitched in every team in the organization, from the rookie league in Venezuela to Triple-A Toledo. He has pitched in 65 major league games.
During his time in the minor league, he pitched in 238.1 innings, with an ERA of 2.64. He allowed 7 home runs and 130 bases-on-balls. His WHIP was 1.225 with 29 wild pitches. Unfortunately for Rondon, his numbers dropped once he started pitching in Detroit. In 59 innings pitched, he had a 4.68 ERA with 5 home runs, 30 bases-on-balls, 9 wild pitches, and a WHIP of 1.492.
In 2014, Bruce Rondon spent the year recovering from Tommy John surgery. During 2013 and 2015, he was a part of the bullpen that was one of the worst in baseball. When Joe Nathan hurt himself in his first outing in 2015, Joakim Soria became the closer. After he was traded at the deadline in 2015, the Tigers planned to rely on Rondon to fill the hole in the ninth inning. Unfortunately, his outings were so unpredictable that he could not reliably fill the role.
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Prior to the end of the of the 2015 season, Brad Ausmus and the front office decided to send Rondon home. The complete details were not released, the word given to the media was that Rondon’s effort level and commitment to the team was being questioned. Before his early release, Rondon’s fastballs were averaging 92 miles per hour. For a pitcher who usually throws between 98 and 100 mph, this large decline was suspect. Even his body language on the mound during his last outing was not that of a confident professional athlete.
In order to recover any shred of dignity, Rondon spent time in Venezuela playing winter baseball. All was quiet until he and Jose Osuna got into a bench-clearing fight. Both were ejected and Rondon’s attitude was questioned again. Since he is a part of the Tigers organization until 2017, the team will have to make decisions about him for 2016 and 2017. The fact that he can consistently throw 100 mph fastballs makes any decision difficult to make.
To add to life getting in the way, Rondon became infected with the Chikungunya virus. This illness prevented him from joining the team for TigerFest in January.
Currently, Rondon is in Lakeland working out and pitching with the team. He claims to be feeling good and that he is ready to forget the troubles from 2015. Ausmus has said that Rondon does not have a guaranteed spot on the 25-man roster, so he will clearly have to battle with the other young pitchers to come back to Detroit. One thing that could work nicely for Rondon is the fact that the new closer, Francisco Rodriguez, is a veteran from Venezuela. K-Rod has been known to mentor young pitchers, which could be beneficial for Rondon who could clearly use a knowledgeable mentor.
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The Tigers would rather see Rondon pitch for them rather than against them – or they would have already traded him. If Rondon can stick to his word and maintain a team-focused attitude, he could become a welcome asset to the team. He told Anthony Fenech with the Detroit Free Press: “In baseball, you learn small things every day, and that was a difficult time. I’m ready to keep learning and moving forward.”
Expect to see Rondon start the season with Triple-A Toledo. He should get called up to the Tigers before spring is over.