Closer candidate Rondon still learning on the job

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Reliever Bruce Rondon made his third Grapefruit League appearance on Friday, against the Mets, still demonstrating some command issues in a one-run inning, but also displaying the high velocity he's touted for, as well as a knack for tossing his off-speed stuff.

Rondon, Detroit's leading candidate to take over the closer's role this season, was charged with one earned run on two hits, one walk and one wild pitch while striking out one hitter in the fifth.

"He's learning a little bit of the art of pitching, as well," manager Jim Leyland said.

Rondon surrendered a leadoff single to Justin Turner before striking out Matt den Dekker with a slider to start the fifth inning. He got Jordany Valdespin to pop out to third, but then walked Ruben Tejada.

That brought up third baseman David Wright, who worked his way to a 2-0 count before pitching coach Jeff Jones made a visit to the mound. The following pitch, Wright laced an RBI single to left.

"He threw a couple good ones," Leyland said. "He'll have to put another thought in peoples' mind besides the fastball, because that's what he's known for and that's what he has and it's really good. But he has other secondary stuff, so he's gonna have to make them aware of that."

Rondon got the third out of the inning on the next pitch, getting Ike Davis to ground out to second base.

Overall, he threw 22 pitches, 12 for strikes, with his fastball velocity hovering in the mid-90s and topping out at 99 mph. Through three appearances this spring, Rondon has given up three hits and four walks while striking out five in 2 2/3 innings.

"Personally, he seems like he's in the right frame of mind," Tigers starter Justin Verlander said. "He seems like a confident man, and obviously that's good for the role he's trying to fill."