DETROIT -- The Tigers tried the fast track with Bruce Rondon in Spring Training and couldn't get him ready for the big leagues, let alone the closer's role. What they've done over the past month and a half since promoting him from Triple-A Toledo has been Plan B.
Slowly but surely, Rondon is maturing into a reliable Major League reliever. In the process, the Tigers are developing a potentially major piece to their late-season bullpen.
Rondon's outings have ranged from two innings in a tie game last week in Cleveland to two eighth-inning batters with a three-run lead Thursday night against the Royals. Regardless of situation, he has been effective in August, allowing four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in eight innings. He has not been charged with a run, though he has allowed three out of five inherited runners to score.
Some of that work has come out of necessity, while other opportunities have been planned. Either way, Jose Veras' addition as a right-handed setup man has allowed manager Jim Leyland to pick and choose his spots to use Rondon. It has proven to be an easier way for Leyland to break in his hard-throwing rookie reliever than a set role, even in setup duty.
"I'm really happy with him. I think it's working, knock on wood," Leyland said. "I think the philosophy is working a little bit. We kind of broke him in and got him a little more responsibility as we go on, and I think he's responded pretty good. I'm really happy with him. …
"These things take time. You can't rush these babies. They have to crawl before they walk at this level. I think it's pretty much right on."
Through a translator, Rondon credited Leyland for showing confidence to use him in close games. He also said he has developed more confidence throwing his secondary pitches for strikes and setting up his fastball.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.