In an unsurprising move after he soiled the bed on Wednesday, the Detroit Tigers announced early Thursday that they optioned young flamethrower Bruce Rondon to Triple-A Toledo. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, despite raving about Rondon during the winter while suggesting the closer's spot was his for the taking, said skipper Jim Leyland will now "mix and match":
"It's what we said all along," said Dombrowski. "There will be a guy out there in the ninth inning who will close games for us. We might not have a closer anointed, but we have guys we're comfortable with that can close games.
Not quite all along, but the nonchalance is telling.
While this has to be an admittedly disappointing move for the Tigers, it's also one that they're clearly comfortable making without blaming themselves for not having another name – perhaps a free agent signee – as a "plan B." Garrett Wilson wrote here a few weeks ago about a rumor that claimed the Tigers were desperate for a closer after Rondon's early struggles, bashing the Tigers for not planning well enough for the reasonable possibility that Rondon wouldn't win the job. Garrett called the Tigers' other options "the lesser of several evils" but in reality, the Tigers' bullpen is still quite good.
Phil Coke seems to pitch best in tight spots and did more than adequate closing for the Tigers when he did so in the playoffs. Al Alburquerque and Brayan Villarreal strike out a ton of hitters and are legitimate options. That's three to mix and match with and I haven't even named their best relievers, yet (Octavio Dotel, 109 career saves, and Joaquin Benoit). The best pitcher in the right spot should and will probably do just fine. Rondon will work on his stuff (and controlling that stuff) for the Mud Hens and will still probably get a shot in the big league bullpen sometime over the summer.
The sky is not falling, and the Tigers don't seem to be at all frantic or desperate to go out and get a guy they can anoint as closer.