Rondon could play major role for Tigers in postseason
Bruce Rondon started the season in the minor leagues but it appears he could play a major role for the Tigers in the postseason.
With their 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins Tuesday night, the Tigers clinched a playoff berth but the division-clinching celebration will have to wait.
Everyone knows the bullpen givens in closer Joaquin Benoit, set-up man Jose Veras, left-hander Drew Smyly and one of the starters --most likely Rick Porcello.
But Rondon, the man with the triple-digit fastball, has been a question mark ever since a tender elbow put him on the shelf since Sept. 2.
On that day, Rondon struck out Boston's David Ortiz on a 103-miler-per-hour fastball.
Rondon had not pitched since then. He followed the program set up by the training staff, threw a bullpen Sunday in which he aired it out and then was deemed fit to pitch again.
The Tigers had Rondon start the eighth inning Tuesday and all he did was strike out the side, Trevor Plouffe on a 101-mile-per-hour fastball, Josh Willingham on an 85-mile-per-hour slider and Josmil Pinto on a 96-mile-per-hour fastball.
Rondon needed just 10 pitches to complete the inning.
"How about Rondon, not pitching for 20 days and come in like he did was really unbelievable," Tigers manager Jim Leyland told FOX Sports Detroit's John Keating on the post-game show.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire just shook his head when asked about his hitter striking out against Rondon.
"He was throwing really hard," Gardenhire said on the post-game show. "He went to the breaking ball and it was just disappearing. The ball was really coming out of his hand. That's a power arm.
"We didn't look like we had too much of a chance to catch up to him and then he started throwing the breaking ball. If you're sitting on a 100-mile-an-hour fastball and he spins it, pretty tough to make an adjustment to it."
The fact that Rondon was able to throw his breaking ball effectively is a good sign because that is mostly what was bothering his elbow.
But Leyland cautioned that the Tigers aren't out of the woods quite yet.
"You gotta watch because he hasn't pitched for 20 days. You can't get greedy," Leyland said. "You've got to wait and see how he feels (Wednesday). Everybody's gonna get all excited now and I am, too, because of what he did, but you gotta be careful.
"This guy just came off a little elbow injury and I can't get greedy with him. I've gotta be careful with it. Certainly tonight was very impressive. The lineup set up pretty good for him."
Having a guy that can come out of the bullpen with that kind of firepower can be invaluable in the postseason.
"I'm excited about having him back," FOX Sports Detroit's Craig Monroe said on the post-game show. "Here's a guy that has a 100-mile-per-hour fastball that actually gets up to 102-103. Guys have to be ready for a fastball. He speeds them up all the time.
"Being in the batter's box with a guy that throws 100 miles per hour, that ball leaves his hands, it seems like it's in the catcher's glove by the time you see it.
"Then he's able to slow them down by expanding that strike zone with a really good off-speed pitches, which would be his slider. He elevated his fastball, he was up, he was down, that's how he's going to have to pitch. I think he can be instrumental for this bullpen if he's able to come out and do what he did (Tuesday night). He was dominant."
The news was not as good for left-hander Phil Coke as it was for Rondon.
Leyland told reporters in Minnesota that Coke was returning to Detroit to undergo an MRI on his left elbow Wednesday.
"He called the trainer (Tuesday) morning and said his elbow's bothering him," Leyland told MLive.com.
Coke first complained about his elbow after giving up three runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning in an 8-0 loss last Wednesday.
Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Coke would not pick up a baseball for three days.
Coke threw Sunday and still didn't feel right. He then threw off the mound in a bullpen session Monday.