The 23-year-old right-hander had appeared in seven Grapefruit League games, posting a 1.29 ERA. According to Dombrowski, Rondon had felt fine before reporting discomfort in his elbow on Monday. An examination by Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday showed Tommy John surgery was required. No date for Rondon's procedure has been set, but surgery will take place before the start of this season. As rehab is expected to take most of a year, it is hoped Rondon will be ready to pitch by Opening Day of 2015.
The hard-throwing Rondon is no stranger to elbow issues. After being recalled from Triple-A Toledo and posting a 2.86 ERA in the months of July and August, Rondon was forced to sit out most of September and all of the Tigers' playoff run with a flexor strain.
Rondon was the favorite in a competition with Joba Chamberlain for eighth inning duty out of the bullpen. By default, Chamberlain will now get first shot at pitching in front of closer Joe Nathan. Regardless, this is a huge blow for the Tigers, who were already entering the 2014 season with a totally rebuilt bullpen. The Tigers say they will look internally for Rondon's replacement.
Injury-wise, this spring has been brutal for the Tigers. They had already lost shortstop Jose Iglesias for the season with stress fractures in both legs. Left fielder Andy Dirks is on the shelf for the next three months after undergoing back surgery. Now add Rondon to the quickly growing disabled list.
When asked how he's holding up under all the injury news, manager Brad Ausmus jokingly said, "I just bought my first pack of Marlboros."