KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Bruce Rondon gave a lot for coaches and fans to digest Tuesday. The Tigers closer candidate walked two of the four batters he faced, but he didn't allow a ball in play. He threw just nine of his 22 pitches for strikes, but he struck out two Astros on pitches other than fastballs.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland preferred to focus on the last pitch Rondon threw and leave it at that. He didn't want to read too much into it, but it showed him something that Rondon's inning Saturday did not. It showed him trust in something besides the fastball.
"He was wild," Leyland said, "but I liked that 3-2 changeup to [Carlos] Pena."
Rondon knew what most everybody in Osceola County Stadium knew when the count went full on Pena with two on and one out: The veteran slugger would be looking for a fastball. Rondon has a fastball good enough to challenge him regardless if he wanted. Instead, he used Pena's mentality against him.
The changeup was the pitch Rondon wanted to throw, he said through a translator. In other words, he didn't need a coach or catcher Brayan Pena to convince him.
He got the result he wanted, getting Pena to swing early as the offspeed pitch traveled in.
It was just the second out, but it was the last pitch Rondon threw because he had reached his pitch limit. Back-to-back four-pitch walks to Tyler Greene and Jose Altuve elevated his pitch count to the point that he couldn't afford a long at-bat, and Pena's full count was basically the end.
Both walks came while Rondon was trying to locate his fastball in the rain. Rondon, however, indicated the weather and the mound conditions were just a minor factor for him.