After essentially being handed the Tigers closer's role before spring training, Bruce Rondon was unable to snag the de fact title in March and was sent down to Triple-A Toledo to get his command under control. Now, Rondon is back in Detroit, taking the place of the injured Octavio Dotel in the Tigers bullpen, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com. In a related topic, Beck also reports that the Tigers have also re-signed last year's closer Jose Valverde to a major league contract, and they plan to immediately use him as their closer.
For Rondon, this means a chance to work in the big leagues in low-leverage situations, at least for the time being. The biggest knock on Rondon, who has 100-plus-mph stuff, has been his ability to throw strikes, averaging 4.4 BB/9 last season and 7.6 the year prior to that. In his brief time in Triple-A this year, however, Rondon walked just two batters in 7 2/3 innings, a marked improvement.
It remains to be seen, of course, how he handles major league hitters, but he will now get that opportunity, and will do so without the pressure that comes with holding a lead in the ninth inning. That opportunity may present itself to Rondon once he gets his feet wet, if he proves to be the Tigers best reliever, something he is wholly capable of, talent-wise. There is a reason, after all, that the Tigers waited until now to re-sign Valverde, and only a portion of that has anything to do with Rondon's presence in the organization.
The Tigers don't know what they will get out of Valverde, but they know they need more talent in their bullpen in any way, shape or form. Valverde has proved to be effective in the past, and Rondon is clearly talented. The question for Rondon will be whether or not he can effectively use that talent against major league hitters.
If he proves himself, and Valverde proves to be closer to the version of himself that the Tigers chose not to re-sign, then there's no reason that Rondon can't be the Tigers closer by playoff time. There's a lot that has to happen between now and then, however, and electing to give him some major league experience in the 6th and 7th innings is a good plan by the Tigers.