DETROIT -- Joaquin Benoit was a mainstay in the eighth inning for the Tigers for 2 1/2 years before stepping into the closer role with stellar results last summer. Now that the Tigers have signed Joe Nathan as their closer, don't expect Benoit to return as a setup man.
In welcoming Nathan, team president/general manager Dombrowski knew he had essentially ruled out a reunion with Benoit, a free agent in a crowded market of late-inning relievers.
"I don't see Joaquin coming back as a setup guy, no," Dombrowski said. "I think somebody will sign him, from all indications, as a closer somewhere, so I don't see that being a fit for us."
Dombrowski didn't rule out another signing for depth in middle relief for setup, but gave every indication that Bruce Rondon -- who emerged as an eighth-inning force before elbow troubles limited him to one outing after Labor Day week -- will slot into that role.
"We think he's capable," Dombrowski said. "He's healthy. He's feeling good. We look at him being a potential eighth-inning guy, and the rest of the bullpen falling into place after that. And I'm not saying we may not do something at some time, because you may do something with a lot of other spots if you think it makes you better. But we feel comfortable with Joe being the closer and then Rondon pitching the eighth inning for us."
The Tigers went into last spring with Rondon as their leading candidate to close, having opted not to add a veteran closer last offseason. Rondon's struggles in the spring led to the re-signing of Jose Valverde, whose struggles led to Benoit's promotion and Rondon's emergence in the eighth.