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.
Twins right-hander Phil Hughes is headed to the Padres, according to announcements from both teams on Sunday. The Padres will also receive the 74th overall draft pick and cash considerations from the Twins, who are getting minor league catcher Janigson Villalobos in return. Minnesota is expected to absorb $7.5 million of Hughes’ $22 million contract; per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, they’ll take on his remaining salary for the 2018 season and pay an additional $5.7 million in 2019.
Hughes, 31, is far from the 16-win, sub-4.00 ERA hurler the Twins enjoyed in 2014. He hasn’t pitched more than 60 innings in any season since 2015, due in part to multiple bouts of back stiffness and shoulder surgeries. He was designated for assignment last week after missing significant time with a left oblique strain and delivering a 6.75 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 6.0 SO/9 through his first 12 innings of 2018.
Villalobos, meanwhile, will provide the Twins with some depth as he continues to work his way through the minor league system. The 21-year-old backstop recently completed a circuit with the Padres’ rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona League, slashing .275/.367/.388 with eight extra bases and a .755 OPS in 98 PA.
The real get for the Padres isn’t Hughes (even with much of his salary already accounted for), but the Competitive Balance B selection in next week’s amateur draft. As MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell points out, the club lost their second-round pick after inking Eric Hosmer to a massive eight-year, $144 million deal back in February.