LAKELAND, Fla. — The Bruce Rondon closer era will take a little longer to begin.
The Detroit Tigers sent Rondon and Luis Marte to Triple-A Toledo Thursday morning before they headed to Kissimmee for their game with the Houston Astros.
That mean that Darin Downs and Brayan Villarreal took the last two spots in the bullpen for the Tigers.
Rondon pitched for the Tigers the last two days. Against the Atlanta Braves Tuesday, he threw a scoreless inning, striking out two. On Wednesday, Rondon allowed two runs on two hits while walking two and striking out one in 2/3 inning. His spring ERA is 5.84 with a 2.11 WHIP.
“We like him a lot; he’s thrown the ball very well at times this spring,” Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “All the times out, you can see his arm strength.
“But we just thought he would benefit a little more from some more development time, very similar to guys like (Avisail) Garcia or (Nick) Castellanos — premium prospects that we just think would benefit from more time at Triple-A.”
That is the key for the Tigers at this point, they need a pitcher who’s going to be consistent. No, they do not expect a closer to be perfect.
Remember Todd Jones and Jose Valverde? They often gave up base hits or walked a guy, but they were usually able to get out of it. The difference is in the experience level.
Now manager Jim Leyland will have to do what he did in the postseason.
“We may not have a closer anointed, but we have many guys that we think can close games,” Dombrowski said. “It’s maybe different, unusual, but it doesn’t mean it won’t work. I feel comfortable with the abilities out there.”
The move is also a huge vote of confidence for Downs, who has never made a big league team out of spring training.
This spring Downs was 1-0 with an 0.64 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. He has 16 strikeouts and three walks in 14 innings.
There was no way the Tigers could justify leaving him off the team with those numbers.
“He’s thrown the ball very well,” Dombrowski said. “We liked him last year, what he did for us. It looked like he came in with more confidence, having been at the big league level.”
Now the only move left is the last position player and it appears to come down to Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth. Worth still has an option.