VIERA, Fla. -- If Bruce Rondon had thrown this well in Spring Training last season, he might be a second-year closer right now. As it is, he's staking a claim to the setup job behind Joe Nathan, and not by simply lighting up radar guns across the Grapefruit League.
Rondon threw another scoreless inning on Sunday against the Nationals, this time allowing a single, but stranding a runner in the eighth. It gives him seven innings of one-run ball on six hits. He threw his seventh strikeout of the spring, while extending his streak without a walk.
The strikeout came on a sharp, breaking slider to Eury Perez, giving him his latest example of a new focus on his secondary pitches.
"It's imperative, I think, for Rondon, that he has to throw his slider to make his fastball even more effective," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Like we talked about earlier, you can't blow your fastball by big league hitters if that's all you've got. I don't care if it's 100 mph."
Rondon threw sliders with 22 percent of his pitches in Detroit last season, along with 10 percent changeups. That devastating fastball comprised two-thirds of his pitch total, helping him easily lead the league in pitches over 100 mph, according to the Bill James Handbook, despite barely a half-season in the Tigers bullpen.