Friday, February 15, 2013
Tigers closer role a competition?
By Jason A. Churchill
For the better part of the offseason there have been hints, partially based on indications from the team, that the Detroit Tigers would head into the 2013 season with a rookie closer. Bruce Rondon, 22, has just nine games of experience above Class-AA, but brings huge fastball velocity and some success closing in the minors. He may be the future in the ninth inning for the defending American League champs -- heck, he may be the club's closer in 2013 -- but skipper Jim Leyland says no closer has been named and it's unlikely he'll name one coming out of spring training.
Rondon's competition includes lefty Phil Coke and right-handers Joaquin Benoit, Al Aburquerque and Octavio Dotel. The club may prefer Coke be available to face tough left-handers earlier in close games, so it may not be ideal in the Tigers' eyes that he handle the ninth inning. Dotel has closing experience but isn't exactly in his prime.
Detroit is likely hoping Rondon earns the ig with a good spring so the rest of the bullpen can repeat their roles from last season when Jose Valverde held the closer's job.
ESPN Insider's Keith Law explains why Rondon may not be ready to dominate in the major leagues just yet:
Rondon's potential impact
"Yes, he has a job and he throws extra-hard, but he doesn't have the great second pitch or the control you'd like to see in someone being handed the Closer mantle, as silly as the narrowly defined role is. The Tigers do seem determined to at least give Rondon a tryout in the ninth inning, and he might miss enough bats with pure velocity to rack up some saves for his fantasy owners along the way."