LAKELAND, Fla. (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - The Detroit Tigers today optioned relief pitchers Bruce Rondon and Luis Marte to Triple-A Toledo, paring their roster to 26 players.
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said the team will go with a closer by committee to start the season. The committee could include Octavio Dotel, Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke, who closed games for the Tigers in the postseason last year.
"We basically set our pitching staff," Dombrowski told reporters at Joker Marchant Stadium this morning, before the team left for Kissimmee to play the Houston Astros. "Darin Downs, Phil Coke and Drew Smyly will be the lefties out of the bullpen. Joaquin Benoit, Brayan Villarreal, Octavio Dotel and Al Alburquerque are the right-handers in the bullpen."
Asked about Rondon, Dombrowski said: "As you know, we like him a lot. He's thrown the ball very well at times in the spring. ... We just thought he would benefit a little bit more by some more development time, very similar to guys like, let's say, a (Avisail) Garcia or (Nick) Castellanos -- premier prospects that we just think would benefit by more time at Triple-A.
"At times, he's been very, very good. Other times, he's been a little inconsistent."
Rondon followed up what was arguably his best performance of the spring Tuesday with arguably his worst Wednesday. Pitching on consecutive days is something any closer in the majors will be asked to do, and Rondon was doing it for the first time this spring.
After a 1-2-3 outing with two strikeouts the day before, Rondon gave up two singles, two walks, a balk and two runs in two-thirds of an inning in a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.
Expectations had been building about Rondon, who throws more than 100 m.p.h., ever since Dombrowski called him "a rare talent" in the off-season and mentioned that he could be the team's closer this season, despite never having pitched in the major leagues.
Rondon has a 5.84 ERA this spring. He allowed 17 hits, nine walks, eight earned runs and had 19 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings (13 appearances).
The Tigers have had no interest in bringing back veteran closer Jose Valverde, but that has more to do with Valverde's poor performance in the postseason than Rondon's ability.
The Tigers must get their roster to 25 players by 2 p.m. Sunday. Opening Day is Monday. The final cut could come down to reserve infielders Danny Worth and Ramon Santiago, whom Dombrowski reportedly has been trying to trade.
Dombrowski said today that he had nothing that he was working on at this point.
Detroit Free Press