DETROIT -- Bruce Rondon has been sent packing. Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus announced on Tuesday that the Tigers closer had been sent home for his "effort level" and would not comment further on the situation, to include whether the reasons were personal or baseball related. Going forward, closer duties will likely be shared between Alex Wilson and Neftali Feliz.
"Bruce Rondon, because of his effort level, has been sent home," Ausmus said. "And other than saying (general manager) Al Avila and myself completely agreed on it, there will be no other details or comments."
The decision comes a day after Ausmus stated the right-handed flamethrower had the most to prove in the final stretch of the season -- with no hesitation as to his response. On Monday, Rondon dialed back his velocity in an outing and his typical high-90s was non-existent -- it rested around 93 mph -- until the very last pitch, when he threw a 96 mph fastball.
Ausmus, asked after the 3-2 Game 2 loss to the White Sox about Rondon's decreased velocity, his response was pointed. "He got three outs."
Rondon came into the game with a slim 5-4 lead on Sept. 19. In the eighth inning. He had been pitching primarily in the ninth. The response regarding the change of which inning Rondon was pitching in was not to read into it. Questions about whether Rondon was no longer the closer were met with the same response.
In the space of a day, Rondon went from having the most to prove, to being told to empty out his locker -- which had already been emptied by the time the clubhouse had opened. A few games after being back from the disabled list, Rondon had been advised not to dial back his velocity and just let it go, essentially. That was reiterated to him and to the media last week, when Rondon's velocity had noticeably dipped repeatedly.
Rondon has reportedly had "effort level" issues in the last at the minor league level, as noted by Paul Wezner of TigsTown. The subject of Rondon's departure wasn't something that catcher Alex Avila wanted to discuss. Yet, asked about Rondon's contribution to the team on a greater level, Avila's non-comment-comment was rather telling:
"To be a big component on the team, you've got to be here on the team," Avila remarked. "There's nothing else really for me to say."
The move is puzzling. It decreases Rondon's value, and if the team was going to make this move regardless, it could have been made earlier in the year -- unless this was in essence a last resort if Rondon was not willing to heed the team's instructions. By decreasing his value, the Tigers have more leeway to correct Rondon's issues in the future. Still, it's a harsh way to go about it if that's indeed the case.
There were rumblings out of the Triple-A Toledo organization that Rondon had issues with studying opposing pitching/hitting charts. Instead, he just put more velocity on his pitches rather than apply himself to his work. Whether that's the case at the MLB level with the Tigers, the signs all point to that being so, and Alex Avila's comments don't exactly dissuade from that conclusion either.