KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The Tigers have a plan for Bruce Rondon.
In the meantime, the rest of their relievers have to be ready at any time.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland stressed that Rondon didn’t do anything wrong this spring to get sent down to Triple-A Toledo.
“He showed me probably everything and more that I needed to see, as far as being a top-notch potential closer,” Leyland said. “It’s just that it was a unanimous opinion that, at this particular time, he needed to go down and get some seasoning.”
Catcher Alex Avila believes that it won’t be long before Rondon is in Detroit.
“He’s as close as you’re going to get without being there,” Avila said. “His stuff’s there, obviously. He’s a great kid, very hard worker. He absorbs as much as you’re going to give him.
“He just needs to continue to throw more, mature a little bit. It wouldn’t surprise me if he comes up at some point in the season and gets some really big outs for us.”
Leyland admitted that the decision to send Rondon down got a lot more attention than any other roster cut for obvious reasons. Even before the Grapefruit League season started, there already was a lot of hype surrounding Rondon, which increased each time he took the mound.
“That’s why I think there was a lot of probably unnecessary stress for the poor kid,” Leyland said
Leyland laid out what he wanted the 22-year-old to do in his time with the Mud Hens.
“There was some disagreement on that,” Leyland said, “but I just think for right now, for his development purposes, just kind of have him put the changeup on the back burner, get the fastball commanded and command of a breaking ball. If he can do that, he’ll pitch his whole career.”
Leyland said Rondon was understandably upset.
“When you talk about young people, you’re talking about emotional people,” Leyland said. “This is not a punishment. This is kind of a reward. Go down there and close.
“It’s not like you’re going to A ball or Double-A. We’re 55 minutes away.”
With a plan for Rondon in place, Leyland now has to have a plan for closing out games. For now, that will look a little like it did during the postseason.
“Could be any one of seven guys,” he said. “(Joaquin) Benoit gets left-handers out pretty good. (Octavio) Dotel’s really improved against left-handers.
“(Phil) Coke will have to do better against right-handers than he did for most of the season last year. If he can translate what he did late in the season into the postseason, that would be perfect.”
Santiago gets final spot
Once the decision on the final two spots in the bullpen was made, that left 26 players on the roster.
Infielders Danny Worth and Ramon Santiago were the two players in contention.
This spring, Santiago, who was limited by a calf injury earlier in camp, is batting .286 with a triple, a home run and eight RBIs in 13 games. Worth is hitting .325 with six doubles and six RBIs in 25 games.
In the end, it was Santiago over Worth, who has options left and could be sent down to Toledo.
Worth, 27, made repeated trips up and down I-75 last season.