Bruce Rondon has bounced back after rough start to spring

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Bruce Rondon’s early struggles this spring led to reports that the Tigers were trying to acquire a closer, but the rookie fireballer has bounced back quite nicely of late.

Rondon allowed three runs on five hits and five walks over his first 3 2/3 innings during Grapefruit League action, but after taking a few days off to work on his mechanics, the 22-year-old right-hander has five straight scoreless appearances to go along with a 9/2 K/BB ratio and two hits allowed over five innings. This includes three consecutive hitless appearances.

Rondon had perhaps his biggest test this afternoon when he faced the heart of the Nationals’ lineup. After getting Jayson Werth to ground out, he ran the count full against Bryce Harper before walking him with a fastball off the plate. However, he bounced back by striking out Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche swinging to end the scoreless frame.

Rondon posted a 1.53 ERA and 66/26 K/BB ratio over 53 innings last season between High-A Lakeland, Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. The 22-year-old right-hander probably still has a lot to prove in order to gain Jim Leyland’s trust in the ninth inning, but he’s at least making a strong push for a bullpen spot.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.