By Bianca Buono 3-6-2013
He doesn’t speak English but he sure knows how to play America’s pastime.
Bruce Rondon is from Venezuela and is fighting for his spot on the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers’ pitching staff is solid and includes names like Justin Verlander, Phil Coke, and Max Scherzer. But the 2012 American League champs have a hole in one spot….the closer. Cue Bruce Rondon. He is only 22-years-old but could provide the Tigers with the closing arm they need.
“It’s a very very important role. I have a responsibility for the team. It’s a big role to fill in in the 9th inning,” Rondon and his translator expressed.
Last year Rondon finished third among all minor league pitchers in saves with twenty-nine. This is his first year going into spring training preparing for a season in the majors.
“The biggest thing for preparing for this season has been mentally preparing,” he said. “It’s the most important thing when you get to the big leagues. It’s about building confidence.”
And the confidence-building process is not done alone. Rondon is supported by a very talented pitching staff and veteran players.
“All of the players have been really helpful in guiding me and giving me advice. I thank them for that. All the way from coaches to the manager, everyone’s been very helpful,” Rondon said.
Detroit Manager Jim Leyland has said that he will not be making his final decision on a closer until the end of spring training. That leaves twenty-seven more days for Rondon to prove himself.
Detroit relief pitcher Phil Coke thinks that new off-season additions like Rondon could be the missing puzzle piece the team needs to win a title.
“Anytime you have a good core of guys followed up with a bunch of guys doing the backup role you’re in a good situation. We’ve improved in the areas that were needing improving.”
His pitches include a fastball that can touch triple digits, a change-up, and a career 9.78 strikeouts-per-nine rating.
Last season, Justin Verlander led the league in strikeouts with 239 and was followed by teammate Max Scherzer with 231. If Rondon can close games and continue his high strikeout ratio, the Detroit Tigers will defensively be a major threat.
This Friday will be Rondon’s next appearance on the mound against the New York Mets.