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Would starting in Toledo be best option for Rondon?

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. – There is still a full week left in spring training and manager Brad Ausmus has been very clear that no decisions have been made regarding the last spots in the bullpen.

More and more, though, signs are pointing toward right-hander Bruce Rondon starting the season in Toledo. But the good news there, the important news, is that his health isn't a major factor in that decision.

If the Tigers do keep him in Toledo to start the season, it will be because of these two reasons:

■He's only pitched 28.2 innings in the Major Leagues and he hasn't pitched at all since 2013 because of Tommy John surgery. They may think it best to ease him into the season and not throw him immediately into the fire.

■The Tigers play 23 of their first 32 games against teams that feature heavy left-handed hitting lineups, including six against AL Central rivals Cleveland. It might be prudent for the Tigers to carry three left-handed relievers at least for the first month and a half.

There could be a third consideration, as well. Even though the Tigers believe his arm is healthy and strong, they may be wary of having him throw in cold weather. If that's the case, then he could stay in Lakeland for extended spring training.

"We've been discussing it quite a bit," Ausmus said of the notion Rondon might be best served starting the season at Toledo. "I do think you have to keep in mind he hasn't pitched in a game in a long time."

Again, Ausmus reiterated that no decision was made.

"Whether he makes the team or not, whether we think he needs more development, the important thing is his strength is there, his arm strength is there," Ausmus said. "In the long term, and in the near term, you would think he's going to have some impact on the Detroit Tigers, in a positive fashion."

Rondon had one of his lesser outings Friday in Dunedin. He lost his composure after a questionable ball-strike call and gave up a long two-run home run to Justin Smoak.

In 6.1 innings this spring, he has given up four runs, 10 hits, two home runs and two walks, with six strike outs.

In all likelihood, right-handers Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Joba Chamberlain and Al Alburquerque will be on the 25-man roster for Opening Day. Rondon would be the fifth right-hander.

But, Ausmus said he is still considering keeping three left-handers. The choice there is between Tom Gorzelanny, Kyle Ryan, Ian Krol and Blaine Hardy.

Krol and Ryan are scheduled to pitch Saturday.

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky