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Leyland isn't ruling out Rondon as his closer

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Bruce Rondon wasn't going to win or lose the closer's job a week-and-a-half into a four-week camp. With the attention focused on the position as one of the biggest questions for a contending team, though, he was going to set a tone either way.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said at the start of camp that he wouldn't be making day-by-day judgments of Rondon as a closer. Four appearances into Rondon's Spring Training, Leyland wasn't going to break from that, but he wasn't going to ignore the early results either.

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"Right now, he's throwing pretty hard," Leyland said, "and they're hitting it pretty hard."

That said, Leyland stopped short of making evaluations. With just under four weeks of games left in this long camp, he isn't in the declarations business.

"I think it's too early to get excited about anything," Leyland cautioned.

While most of the focus has been on command, Rondon actually threw strikes at a decent rate on Sunday. His damage largely came from the strikes the Braves hit. Tyler Pastornicky jumped a fastball over the plate, Rondon's third pitch of the day, and pulled it to left for a home run leading off the inning. Justin Upton followed a walk to Jason Heyward with a double deep into the gap in right-center, also off a fastball, for a second run.

Rondon induced a Freddie Freeman groundout and struck out B.J. Upton to prevent any further damage. Still, he gave up multiple hits for the second consecutive outings. Rondon has walked at least one batter in all four appearances, five in all, but he also has six strikeouts. Two of those walks came in the rain against the Astros at Kissimmee, Fla.

Rondon has more strikeouts (six) than outs put in play (five). He also has almost as many baserunners (10) as outs (11). Those aren't numbers that would get an established closer in trouble in a camp -- Jonathan Papelbon gave up more damage against Detroit last Monday than Rondon has all spring -- but they aren't statistics that will forge confidence in a rookie closer either.

Several Rondon fastballs came in around 96 mph on the radar gun at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, but Leyland dismissed the question of whether Rondon might be taking a few miles per hour off to aim the ball.

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