DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers didn’t waste any time in stemming the bleeding from their biggest problem. Monday morning, general manager Al Avila announced that the team had called up fireball prospect reliever Joe Jimenez and optioned Bruce Rondon to Toledo.
Rondon, who gave up six runs in his last two outings with one out recorded, has had issues of command and velocity all spring. Avila said that the primary reasons for him being sent back to Toledo were his depreciating fastball command and weight that he gained back over the offseason.
“We decided to go that way based on, we just felt that Bruce needed more time to get ready for the season,” Avila said. “We were hoping before we broke spring training that giving him the benefit of the doubt, that he was going to come in and be able to help right away. We just felt that he needed more time to get himself ready.”
This is a huge step back for Rondon, who had worked diligently to drop the weight and gain a better attitude following his early sendoff at the end of 2015. The team says that his loss in velocity is not of major concern at this time since he’s still hitting 94-96 mph.
With Rondon gone, Jimenez will get a chance to prove he belongs on the Tigers. Manager Brad Ausmus said that the team will ease Jimenez into things by keeping him in low-leverage situations for now.
The call-up of Jimenez requires no adjustment to the 40-man roster since there were already three spots open after the team released Mark Lowe and Mike Pelfrey, and designated Steven Moya for assignment. A factor for consideration of who to call up was the CBA, which dictates that anyone already on the 40-man and not the 25-man roster can’t be called up within 10 days of the start of the season.
When the team called Toledo Sunday night, Jimenez’s name was the clear choice. Jimenez will wear No. 46.
“Ideally, we would’ve liked to probably give him a little bit more time, but quite frankly he came into spring training, he went to the World Baseball Classic — which wasn’t the best thing for him because he didn’t get to pitch that much. But when we got him back we sent him right away back to minor league camp, where he got some work in. We called over there last night to our minor league guys, we asked them who the best guy to bring up (was), and they all said Joe Jimenez would be the best guy to bring up.”
Ausmus and Avila said they realize Jimenez’s slider is still a work in progress, and thus will not be throwing him into any one-run games. He is available to pitch in Monday’s game (Justin Verlander versus Chris Sale) despite the April 8 outing where he walked two.
With how poorly Rondon was performing, the team said they had to do something. As of 10:15 a.m., he had arrived in the Tigers’ clubhouse and was getting settled into his new locker beside Shane Greene and closer Francisco Rodriguez.