By: Kurt Snyder
I mentioned in my last blog one of my Dad’s favorite quotes when referring to young pitchers with potential. “Never give up on a good arm.”
Well, at the end of last season, many fans, players and key members of the Tiger organization, were certainly very close to writing off Bruce Rondon.
All over social media in Detroit, fans wanted blood after Rondon was sent home for what was referred to, at the time, as a lack of effort. Bruce Rondon clearly had maturity issues. Tommy John had slowed his career and even though so many pitchers have been able to come back and be successful, there is hard work involved.
Who wondered if Bruce had it in him? Well, he did come back, but he struggled in the spring. He was still throwing hard but still struggled. Many forecasted the end was near and that he would never get his head straightened around enough to harness his tremendous arm and immense talent.
It would have been very easy for the Tigers to let Rondon go after last season. And who could have blamed them. Well, I for one, remembering what my dad always said, knew that the arm that Rondon possessed was not something to easily cast aside and claim worthless. He was still young, still very talented and still very much worth more time.
So the Tigers retained him, gave him no guarantees, just asked him to work; and he has. It has been a slow road for Rondon this season. But slowly but surely he has found himself in more high-leverage situations late in games. He is indeed maturing. And he is not just throwing anymore. He is pitching. And pitching with purpose. He is settling in to a late inning role that may well mean that finally, he may still someday challenge for a closer’s role with the Tigers, or certainly a continued, consistent late inning role.
He has taken a very big step in his development in 2016. The Tigers did not give up on him. Because this is what has been the most noticeable. He seems to care now. He didn’t seem to care last season. When he does well and gets a big out to end an inning, he’s pretty cranked up, pretty mentally charged when he leaves the mound.
That is a tremendous sign. But it has been noticeable on the other side of the coin has well. When he doesn’t do well or he struggles getting through an inning, he is visibly upset with himself. No more hanging of the head.
It’s what you ask most of a late reliever; aggressiveness, emotion and the desire to dominate. Rondon is getting there, slowly but surely, but getting there; a complete about-face from the unfortunate kick to the curb a year ago. He is still a very valuable commodity, and more importantly, he finally appears to see the value he can now provide.