Tigers send Rondon down to find consistency

Reliever heads to Triple-A after giving up 2 key walks, taking loss Sunday

Tigers send Rondon down to find consistency

DETROIT -- The impatience and frustration were palpable among the home fans at Comerica Park on Sunday afternoon, as they loudly voiced their opinion of reliever Bruce Rondon.

Rondon, who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after Detroit's 6-4 loss to Minnesota, entered the eighth inning of a tie game and walked to Eddie Rosario on four straight fastballs thrown at 96-plus mph.

"It was really the first four pitches that were alarming," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "They weren't real close."

Fans booed Rondon as Rosario trotted to first. Then Twins catcher Chris Gimenez came to the plate and watched two balls hit the dirt. A mound visit, and more boos followed.

Two pitches later, on a 3-0 count, Rondon took off some velocity and found the zone with a 93-mph fastball. The next pitch was ball four, and Ausmus headed to the mound to pull his reliever, at which point a chorus of applause broke out and Warwick Saupold became the new pitcher.

Rondon (1-3) took the loss and declined to comment after the game. Both his runners came around to score, as the Twins executed a sacrifice bunt, a single and a sac fly against Saupold in the following three at-bats. In 21 Major League appearances this year, Rondon has a 10.91 ERA.

Rondon had strung together four straight scoreless appearances (3 1/3 innings) before Sunday, including a save, all in contests where the score was separated by three or fewer runs. But in all seven outings this year in which he's allowed the other team to score, he's yielded multiple runs.

Ausmus said after the game his message to Rondon was to "just go down [to Toledo] and try to get consistent." The manager didn't clarify what he meant by consistency beyond "performance-wise."

Toledo is a place Rondon has already proven to be consistent, with a 3.04 ERA in 28 games this year. He gave up just one earned run in his final nine innings with the Mud Hens before the Tigers called him up on June 23.

Tigers starter Matthew Boyd, who was sent to Toledo earlier in the season when he hit a rough stretch, noted the silver lining that can come with a Minor League assignment.

"More than anything, you got an opportunity to get better," Boyd said. "You're there to go do it. The fact of the matter is, today's over with."

Today is over with, but tomorrow the Tigers will be searching for late-inning relievers to fill the eighth-inning role in front of closer Shane Greene. Alex Wilson, who has allowed two runs (one earned) in his past eight innings, might be the leading candidate. But Ausmus hasn't indicated who it will be.

"We'll just see who's pitching well, what the matchups are," Ausmus said. "Somebody's gonna have to step up."

Worth noting
Miguel Cabrera, who was removed from Saturday's game with lower back tightness and did not start Sunday for the same reason, was ready to pinch-hit for Andrew Romine in the ninth inning if James McCann had reached safely with two outs. That bodes well for the likelihood of him starting Monday night in Texas.

Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.