Rondon returns to Toledo as closer

Rondon returns to Toledo as closer

DETROIT -- The Tigers still see Bruce Rondon as their closer of the future. Their idea to use him as an extra reliever for the present, however, wasn't working out.

"He's just not ready for this," manager Jim Leyland said. "And when I say that, please don't think anybody's down on him, because we think he's a future closer at the Major League level. But I just can't get him enough work right now."

Thus, Rondon is headed back to Triple-A Toledo to be the closer there. The Tigers optioned him on Wednesday after a rough seventh inning in the Tigers' 6-2 loss to the Twins. They'll recall right-hander Luke Putkonen from Toledo on Thursday before they open a four-game series in Houston.

It's the second time in five weeks the Tigers have optioned Rondon, both times after he battled control issues. The first time, they sent him out at the end of a long Spring Training audition for the closer's job. This time, he barely pitched at all.

The 22-year-old Rondon arrived from the Mud Hens eight days ago to replace the injured Octavio Dotel in the bullpen. He pitched in back-to-back games last week, giving up a game-tying run to the Royals last Thursday before delivering a scoreless ninth inning in Friday's rout of the Braves.

From there, however, he didn't pitch again until Wednesday, when two hits and two walks led to two insurance runs for the Twins in the seventh inning to pull away. Though his fastball hit 101 mph on the Comerica Park radar gun, the Twins hit it for a leadoff triple from slumping rookie Aaron Hicks and an RBI single for Pedro Florimon.

"Throw it hard, charge it hard," Leyland summarized.

Once Rondon issued back-to-back walks to load the bases, he was visibly frustrated with himself before Leyland made the long walk to pull him. Shortly after that, he was optioned.

"He wants to be here bad and doesn't want to go down, obviously, and I understand that," Leyland said. "But right now, it's best for him. We think the world of him. We think he's got a big future. I think just the best way to put it is that he's not ready for this just yet."

Putkonen, who turns 27 next week, returns for his fifth stint with the Tigers in a year. He was up and down four times as a long reliever last season and was a candidate for the same role this Spring Training before being sent out near the end of camp. He has allowed six runs (four earned) on 14 hits in 16 2/3 innings with five walks and 16 strikeouts in eight games for the Hens.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.