Thursday, March 14, 2013
Do Tigers need to deal for a closer?
By Doug Mittler
Among the most scrutinized players in all of spring training is Bruce Rondon, the untested rookie reliever who entered camp with the chance to be the next closer for the Detroit Tigers.
It has been a bumpy road so far for the 22-year-old Venezuelan with the 100-mph fastball. In six Grapefruit League outings, Rondon has allowed nine hits, three earned runs and five walks while striking out nine in 5 2/3 innings. In a move that was portrayed as a caution flag, the Tigers had Rondon skip a scheduled appearance last week to instead throw a session in the bullpen to work on his mechanics.
In the wake of Rondon's spring struggles -- to say nothing of the fact that he's never yet thrown a pitch in the majors -- Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reported that the Tigers are "already pushing hard" to find a closer on the trade market.
That has proven to be difficult, especially at this stage of camp, as the trade market has been a challenge for the Tigers, writes Lynn Henning of the Detroit News. Still, the club does have a surplus of starting pitching and could look to deal Rick Porcello.
If the trade route fails to produce a desirable result, GM Dave Dombrowski could always try to bring in free agent Brian Wilson, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, on an incentive-laden deal.
If Rondon can't do the job as the successor to Jose Valverde, manager Jim Leyland has veterans Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel and Al Alburquerque as in-house candidates. While each one could get the job done, shifting any reliever into the ninth inning would cause a domino effect that would weaken an already-shallow bullpen.
Former big leaguer C.J. Nitkowski, writing for ESPN Insider, thinks the closer-by-committee idea could actually work for the Tigers.
C.J. Nitkowski" target="new">Committee could work
"Designating one of their late-inning relievers as closer to start the season would be a low-risk, low-reward way out of this mess and likely start a carousel of closers spinning in Detroit. And while the idea gets dismissed as something akin to lacking a plan, simply having a preferred closer isn't much of a plan either. So taking a more bold approach and adopting the often-scoffed-at "closer by committee" tactic is the best way the Tigers could handle their current situation, and they are one of the few teams that has the personnel to make it work. Here's why."