If there is one thing the Detroit Tigers have, it is patience.
But the time has come for the Detroit Tigers to stop being so patient with Bruce Rondon.
After four years of hoping that things will change, Rondon has proved that things will not. Consistency just doesn’t seem to be a part of his skillset.
Quick History on the Reliever
In the four years that Rondon has pitched with the Tigers, he has had nothing but ups and downs. In most of the years, the cons have outweighed the pros. In fact, he created so much trouble in 2015 that he was actually sent home before the end of the season.
"“Bruce Rondon, because of his effort level, has been sent home.”"
In December of 2015, Rondon made news by getting in a fight during a game in the Venezuelan Winter League.
The following spring he returned to the Tigers with a better attitude. He did perform better in 2016 ending the season with a 2.97 ERA, but that was apparently due to Francisco Rodriguez being a positive role model. I reviewed his 2016 season and gave him some kind words, praising his performance. The hope with a reliever is for consistency, but it doesn’t look like Rondon is going to be able to carry it from year to year.
Drop in Velocity
The big problem with Rondon is that his fastball velocity has significantly dropped. The Tigers have been patient with him because he pitched fastballs that have reached speeds over 100 MPH. But, that speed has not shown up and it did not show up in spring training or the World Baseball Classic. Anthony Fenech with the Detroit Free Press recorded Ausmus saying about Rondon:
"“My gut says he’s going to be fine, but until you see it I guess you’re concerned. I’ve said before, it wouldn’t shock me if he stepped on the pitching rubber on Monday and threw 98-99 m.p.h. There is an adrenaline factor.”"
Unfortunately, it looks like the adrenaline factor is the problem. When push comes to shove, Rondon doesn’t seem to have what he needs to be successful. He wasn’t used in many high-pressure situations in 2016, but being put in them in 2017 seems to be a struggle for him. His current ERA is over 40.
Shaky Eighth Innings
After two shaky performances with leads in the eighth innings, Rondon has not helped the team. In fact, his inability to hit the strike zone lost both leads. While the leads weren’t huge, they were leads and should have been protected by Rondon and those who followed him. His poor pitching doesn’t allow the defense to do its job of making outs. In both games, Rondon saw a total of seven batters, but he only earned one out.
Even with his track record in 2016, Rondon is not garnering any confidence. At all. In the review of today’s game from Fenech with the Detroit Free Press, Ausmus said:
"“We gotta find someone that can pitch in the seventh and eighth innings.”"
The Twitterverse had a few things to say about Rondon after today’s meltdown:
There are Other Options
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The issue is that there are a few pitchers in the organization who could help out. Joe Jimenez is currently getting “seasoned” down with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens and Ruben Alaniz is doing the same with the Double-A Erie Seawolves. Anyone who saw Jimenez pitch during the WBC saw that he is the real deal. And, Alaniz was one of the minor leaguers who caught Ausmus’s eye during spring training.
There is also the matter of Anibal Sanchez. He closed up the ninth in today’s game with three easy outs. He could fill a role in the late innings. Sanchez could easily throw in the seventh and eighth. He’s got the endurance to go at least two.
If things go as expected, Rondon will be sent back down to Triple-A Toledo. Most likely, Blaine Hardy will be back in Detroit in the next day or two. Jimenez will stay in Toledo for as long as the Tigers can keep him there.