By:  Kurt Snyder

In the spring of 2013, Bruce Rondon emerged as a young reliever who reminded all of us of the last fire baller we grew so enamored with beginning in 2006, Joel Zumaya.

Like Zumaya, Rondon could throw a 100 mph fastball and he was thought to be a contender for the Tiger’s vacant closer’s role. It was hard to believe that a rookie would be given so much consideration for such an important role on the team. Coincidentally, we said that about the Brad Ausmus hiring last season.

The Tigers, very much expecting to be contenders again, still had cracks in the foundation with the ability to become debilitating sink holes if not filled appropriately. And as they left Lakeland, it was announced that the closer’s role was going to be filled (and I hate these words) ‘by committee.”

They had found that Rondon was way too raw to start cutting his teeth on major league hitters and he did not come north with the team. And almost like a bad penny, Jose Valverde showed up again for another shot at redemption, even after he had done so much damage to all of our hearts in the 2012 playoffs. But Papa Grande could not reclaim any of his magic from his 49 save season of 2011 or find his sinker that left him in 2012.

Bruce Rondon fought all year to become part of the Tiger bullpen. But in September of that year, he started to come around. It was becoming apparent that this guy was going to be a key piece in the playoffs. But as luck would have it, he strained his forearm and was out and unavailable to pitch in the playoffs.

I remember the comments on forums around the city. I remember how the significance of his loss was downplayed by many, as he had not had success for very long and certainly, according to some, not enough to warrant a key spot in the pen come playoff time. I disagreed. I saw how he began to dominate.

We know the rest of the story as the David Ortiz grand slam in the ALCS will rank near the top of heartbreaking Detroit sports moments with the likes of “…and there’s a steal by Bird! ” (I still have occasional dry heaves from both of those nightmarish evenings in yes, Boston!)

This season, Rondon, only a year removed from Tommy John surgery, is being talked about again as a potential key piece in the Tigers’ pen. Knowing what we have learned about TJS, it seems early to be even speaking his name, regardless of how good he looks.

I would love to think that come Opening Day, Bruce Rondon would be ready to come north with the Tigers. Just the fact that he is in the conversation gives us hope. But Ausmus must resist the temptation. Because, if Rondon is recovering as quickly as the Lakeland Propaganda Machine suggests, I would protect him as if he were one of my children.

Let him continue to pitch in Lakeland. Because I remember those days in 2013 when Bruce Rondon was starting to get it. And I was excited about his potential role in the playoffs and the dominance he was beginning to show.

So Brad, don’t overreact. Let’s give him the opportunity to continue to progress in the minor leagues. And if luck somehow finds this team, Rondon may start kicking down the door in mid-summer.

I dream (and yes I do dream about the Tigers; it’s a family thing) of another pennant race where a hard throwing young reliever gives you no choice but to use him in situations where you need to close out an inning with a big strike out. Don’t we all agree the Tigers are due for some luck? We are due for luck at shortstop (enough with the shin already) and we are due for some in the bullpen.

And Bruce Rondon’s name on a 2015 Detroit Tiger playoff roster would be just what the doctor ordered and would say a lot about how things are going.


  1. Similarities and differences between Rondon and Zumaya. Zumaya was a starter all through the minors, only converting to the pen as a rookie in 2006. His injuries were unfortunate and possibly self-inflicted. Guitar Hero may have played a role in his hand tendon rupture (I was in KC that faithful night, seeing the trainers holding his hand in a towel coming in from the pen). And moving boxes after an earthquake caused his shoulder injury, or so we are told. Rondon’s injury is a straight forward one, and his recovery is ahead of schedule. The nice thing about Rondon this year is that he does not have to be relied on heavily. At first, Nathan, Soria, Al Al, and Joba can be the main RH pitchers. IF they falter over time, then a healthy Rondon could be leaned on. The only question for me is does staying in Lakeland on extended spring training make sense for him, or does being on the big team where his workload and progress can be closely monitored by the major league staff. How he progresses this spring will tell us which is the best option. And I agree, he looked really good in September 2013 and he has the potential to be a dominant pitcher for us when completely healthy.


    • Robert – love your enthusiasm and your participation, keep it coming. I would only ask that you try to shorten things up a bit. Trust me, I know how difficult that is. I am guardedly optimistic about Rondon. But I don’t think we will realize any real benefit from him until mid season, as long as he continues to progress. Thanks, Kurt


  2. Rondon was starting to throw his curve ball for strikes. He was getting guys out with that breaking ball. When he got hurt I privately gave up on our chances in the post season. The only chance I saw was if miggy could carry us. Well he was less than 100% too. Our luck has been bad. I’ll be like grandma this season and keep my fingers crossed.


  3. Kurt, You say Rondon should simply stay in Lakeland when the Tigers head north to start the season. I disagree with that, and I think Rondon’s arm should dictate what the Tigers do with him at that time. Is it healthy? Is it pitching well? He should go north if the answers are yes, and he should not head north if the answers are no


    • Ian – It will be really important for Rondon to be available for this team in the fall. Rushing him along regardless of how promising things are is not necessary. Giving him a little more time in the warm climate certainly wouldn’t hurt. He is still very early in the process, have to be cautious here. Thanks, Kurt


      • Kurt, It is possible that your line of thinking could make Rondon MEANINGLESS in the fall. Setting the scene: Rondon is ready to go on opening day, but the Tigers choose to be “cautious” (I would choose from a list of words that certainly do not qualify as synonyms for cautious) and leave him behind for 2-4 weeks. In that time the bullpen loses 6-7 games that could have been won (all while Rondon could have helped win some of those games). Now let’s fast forward to the end of the season and the Tigers miss the playoffs by 1 game. Those losses early in the season sure do look to be every bit as important as any game in the fall now, don’t they? The only thing being “cautious” accomplished was to LOSE A CHANCE to win the WS.

        If he’s ready, he’s ready…USE HIM.


      • Ian – I totally get your point and don’t disagree. I also think that Chamberlain would have been much more effective in the second half of last season if we hadn’t been forced to use him so much. If you trust that Ausmus will use his bullpen appropriately then I buy in with you completely. But Ausmus has to earn some trust when it comes to his bullpen philosophy. Rondon is the third most important guy in that pen and we need him to be around during what is sure to be a close pennant race once again. Good talk, thanks, Kurt


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