Detroit Tigers: As of late, Bruce Rondon has pitched like setup reliever team needed

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 04: Bruce Rondon #43 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Chicago White Soxduring the opening day game at Guaranteed Rate Field on April 4, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Tigers defeated the White Sox 6-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 04: Bruce Rondon #43 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Chicago White Soxduring the opening day game at Guaranteed Rate Field on April 4, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Tigers defeated the White Sox 6-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Tigers fans have seen a resurgent Bruce Rondon as of late. The sample size is small, but it is extremely encouraging for the team moving forward.

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Bruce Rondon didn’t have the best start to the 2017 season. He appeared in three games for the club early.

The first game was ok, Rondon gave up a hit, but also punched out a batter in a scoreless inning.

However, the next two games were anything but ok.

Recording just one out in the process, Rondon was tagged for six runs, three walks and three hits.

All told, that left the flame-throwing reliever with a sky-high 40.50 ERA. It also resulted in the team sending Rondon down to Triple-A.

His numbers with Toledo were solid (3.04 ERA, 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 26.2 frames). However, the hurler also had a 1.800 WHIP due to 6.1 walks surrendered per nine.

Despite the walks, Rondon returned to the Majors after Francisco Rodriguez was let go.

Since then, the 26-year-old has started to pitch like the setup man Detroit has so desperately needed.

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Filling a need

With Rodriguez having been removed from the closer’s role before being released all together, manager Brad Ausmus was utilizing Shane Greene and Alex Wilson as Justin Wilson’s setup options.

While both relievers performed well, the team ran the risk of overusing them and burning them out if were utilized too often.

Thus the need for another setup option emerged.

Rodriguez, Arcenio Leon, Joe Jimenez, Blaine Hardy and Daniel Stumpf all took swings at the gig.

However, none could keep things locked down late in games.

Warwick Saupold and Chad Bell represent additional options, but the duo are better served doing long work.

In other words, Bruce Rondon’s recent run of form has come at an excellent time.

Ausmus has utilized Rondon in the eighth inning in each of five outings since returning to the Majors.

In those five outings, Rondon has been excellent. The walk issues have been nearly non-existent, with just two since rejoining the Tigers.

He’s also missing bats, with seven punch outs in the same span.

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What’s more, among Detroit relievers, only Justin Wilson has logged a higher swinging strike percentage in the last 30 days than Rondon’s 12.7 number.

Of the 17 batters Rondon has faced in five innings since making his return to the Tigers, he’s allowed just two hits and now runs.

Thanks to the strong numbers, no other reliever has a higher WAR than the young pitcher over the last 30 days.

Return to form

Bruce Rondon’s numbers in the last five games are obviously an extremely small sample size, but putting up strong numbers is nothing new for the reliever.

In 36.1 innings down the stretch in 2016, Rondon punched out 11.15 per nine innings while turning in a 15.8 swinging strike percentage and a 2.95 SIERA.

Future implications

Moving forward, a dominant Bruce Rondon will do wonders for the Detroit Tigers, regardless of if the team contends or sells at deadline.

He seems locked into a setup role moving forward, sharing time with Shane Greene in forming a bridge to Justin Wilson.

If Wilson is dealt before the trade deadline, the Tigers would still have Rondon to turn to in the eighth with Greene closing.

Additionally, Detroit could go with Rondon as closer if the team deals their current ninth-inning option.

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Should the Tigers climb back into contention, they’ll have another dependable setup option to rely upon.