Eighth-inning call for Rondon raises closer question
Kind of hard not to.
Bruce Rondon, who had been closing games the past six weeks, albeit ineffectively, pitched in the eighth inning Saturday night with the Tigers up 5-4.
He gave up a tying home run to Eric Hosmer.
Neftali Feliz, who hasn’t allowed a run in his last six innings, pitched in the ninth inning of a tie game — which is usually when the closer would pitch in a home game.
So is Rondon still the closer?
“I wouldn’t read anything into that,” Ausmus said.
Rondon’s fastball velocity was down, alarmingly. Instead of throwing 97-100 mph, he was 93-96. Hosmer’s home run came on a 96 mph fastball.
“We haven’t spoken to him at this point,” said Ausmus, who admitted the low velocity was a concern. “He hasn’t complained of anything at this point. We’ll find out tomorrow.”
Ausmus also wanted to stay away from Alex Wilson.
“He was available, but I didn’t want to use him because I’d used him so much,” he said.
Wilson’s absence contributed to a dreadful seventh inning for the Tigers bullpen.
Up 4-3, Ausmus brought in lefty Blaine Hardy to face left-handed hitting Hosmer, switch-hitter Kendrys Morales, and lefty Mike Moustakas.
Hosmer led off with a double. A spectacular diving stop by Ian Kinsler robbed Morales of a hit. And Hardy got Moustakas to ground out to Kinsler, as well.
With Hosmer on third and two out, Al Alburquerque came in to face right-handed hitting Jonny Gomes. That is presumably where Wilson would have been used.
Alburquerque got two quick strikes on Gomes and then unleashed a wild pitch, scoring Hosmer and tying the score.
Alburquerque’s nightmare was just beginning. He wound up walking Gomes, then balked him to second. He walked Perez intentionally but gave up the go-ahead run on a single by No. 9 hitter Christian Colon.
So, in the span of three batters, he threw a wild pitch, balked, walked two and gave up an RBI single.
It will be interesting to see who Ausmus uses to close on Sunday. Feliz has thrown four innings over the last three days.