Rondon struggles, goes back to Toledo

DETROIT — The Bruce Rondon experiment is on hold once again.

The Tigers optioned Rondon to Triple-A Toledo after Wednesday’s 6-2 loss to Minnesota.

Rondon hit 101 mph several times during the seventh, but two of those fastballs were hit for a triple and an RBI single. He retired only one of the five batters he faced, walking two and giving up the two hits.

“He’s just not ready for this,” Jim Leyland said after the game. “We thought we could give it a shot, especially when we had to send down (Brayan) Villarreal, but it is still too soon.”

Rondon pitched three times, allowing seven baserunners and getting seven outs. He goes back to Toledo with an 11.57 ERA and only one strikeout, despite the ease with which he can hit triple digits on the radar gun.

“If you throw it hard, they are going to charge it hard,” Leyland said. “It’s better to throw 96 or 97 with some movement and have that extra bit in reserve than to throw it straight.”

Rondon is expected to close in Toledo — Leyland said he needs to pitch on a more regular basis — but he should have spent a little bit of time watching fellow rookie Jose Ortega pitch the ninth inning for the Tigers.

Ortega threw only fastballs in the mid-90s, but had better movement and was getting swinging strikes with his slider.

“Ortega was a two-pitch guy today — he’s throwing 96 at the knees with a nasty slider,” Leyland said. “That was the difference in them, at least for today.”

The Tigers called up reliever Luke Putkonen from the Mud Hens to replace Rondon. Putkonen is expected to pitch long relief, letting Drew Smyly fill the role vacated by the injury to Phil Coke.