Detroit Tigers hard-throwing relief prospect Bruce Rondon paid a visit to renowned Tommy John specialist Dr. James Andrews last week and has been diagnosed with a flexor strain, writes Rob Rogacki of BlessYouBoys.com. The article goes on to explain why it's not as bad as it sounds and that, at this point, there's no reason to believe he should miss any time, but still, young pitchers visiting Dr. Andrews is never a good thing to hear.
If it feels like Bruce Rondon has been around forever, it's because he's been on the verge of making an impact in the majors for well over a year now without having done so. And while he had moderate success last season in the majors, he's technically still a prospect. Rendon did what he does best in the majors, striking out more than a batter per inning. He struggled early in the season in the closer's role but had success in lower-leverage situations later when he returned later in the season, and once Joaquin Benoit had established himself as the closer.
We don't know what effect Rondon's elbow will have on his status for next season, but it's safe to say that he'll be in the Tigers bullpen plans. With inflammation that seems to come and go, and a powerful, torque-filled arm action, Rondon will always be a bit of an injury risk (even compared to other pitchers), but as long as he's healthy, he should be in the majors in 2014.
Where within the Tigers bullpen he falls, however, could be a different question, and one we likely won't know the answer to until we figure out who the Tigers name their new manager. Jim Leyland was hesitant to turn the ninth inning over to Rondon, and even delayed turning it over to Benoit until long after there were no other options, still clinging to the old adage of closer experience. We have no idea if the new manager will uphold such tradition, but it's probably safe to assume that Benoit will be the closer until he gives the new manager a reason for him not to be. At the first slip, however, Rondon should be there to take the mantle so many thought he'd assume this season.