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 fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.