The Tigers finalized their bullpen for opening day, optioning highly rated prospect and closer-in-waiting Bruce Rondon to Triple-A Toledo. Right-handed reliever Luis Marte was also optioned to Toledo.
Officially making the team as relievers are left-hander Darin Downs and mercurial right-hander Brayan Villarreal. Rondon will become the closer for the Mud Hens.
GM Dave Dombrowski was asked when Rondon could be called up to Detroit, but, as always, was noncommittal.
"I don’t want to put a time frame on it."
The team with start the season with a bullpen of Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel, Drew Smyly, Downs and Villarreal. The Tigers head north with an unconventional bullpen, both in lacking a true closer and three left-handed arms in Coke, Downs and Smyly.
Leyland will likely use his relievers as chess pieces while trying to find advantageous 9th inning match-ups, but it's anticipated veterans Dotel, Benoit and Coke will get the bulk of closing opportunities.
Given every shot to lock down the closer job in Lakeland, Rondon was far too inconsistent to gain the trust of Leyland. Wednesday's nationally televised outing was ultimately Rondon's Alamo. Pitching in back-to-back games for the first time this spring, Rondon entered the game in the top of the 6th. Two outs, two hits, two runs, two walks and a balk later, his minor league fate was sealed.
Rondon ends the spring with a 5.84 ERA, allowing eight runs, 17 hits and nine walks in 12 1/3 innings of work.
The Tigers' roster now stands at 26 players, 24 spots are locked in. The final position battle is between utility men Ramon Santiago (reportedly on the trading block) and Danny Worth.
Unfortunately for Jim Leyland, neither can close.