The Tigers’ clubhouse was closed this morning and that means cuts. One cut that is somewhat surprising: reliever Bruce Rondon, who the Tigers had given every opportunity to win the closer’s job this spring. But he’s headed to Toledo and the Tigers are going to go with a closer-by-committee setup.
Rondon is immensely talented, but he had an erratic spring. Rough going early, but then he righted the ship somewhat. Overall he struck out 18 batters in 11 and two-thirds innings this spring. But he walked nine and gave up 15 base hits. That’s a recipe for a lot of antacids for Jim Leyland in the ninth inning, and it seems he just didn’t want to deal with that yet.
Rondon will eventually be pitching in late innings in Detroit. For now, though, it’s going to be some mix of Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and Al Albuquerque handling closing duties.
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.