Tampa, Fla. — Funny thing about the three players the Tigers sent out Monday — there is a chance at least two of them could end up helping the club at some point this season.
Right-handed reliever Bruce Rondon was optioned to Triple A Toledo, while veteran, non-roster invitees Bobby Parnell and Casey McGehee were given their outright release.
The Tigers had until Tuesday to make a roster decision on Parnell and McGehee, both of whom have enough service time in the major leagues to qualify for a $100,000 retention bonus. Both players now have five days before the end of spring camp to either sign on with another team. They could also sign back with the Tigers on minor league deals.
Asked if there was a chance Parnell and McGehee could be back with the Tigers, manager Brad Ausmus said, “Yeah, yeah — there’s a chance.”
Parnell, the former closer for the Mets who is two years removed from Tommy John surgery, stuck around and finished his workout with the other pitchers Monday in Lakeland after he got the news he was released.
“He was trending in the right direction,” Ausmus said. “His arm strength was coming around. His last outing was his best. But at this point we gave him his release.”
Parnell’s fastball increased steadily through the spring, from 90, to 93 to 96 mph in his final outing Sunday against the Astros. Given the injuries to two key bullpen arms — Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy — it seemed Parnell was closing in on winning a roster spot.
In contrast, McGehee didn’t have much of a shot to win a roster spot.
“At times he’s been a very productive hitter at the big-league level and he’s had some down years — but he’s kind of a baseball player,” Ausmus said. “You can see that by his makeup. He knows what he’s doing at third base. He was who we thought he’d be. It was just a situation that we didn’t have a spot for him.
“He knew that coming in. But he got to play and other teams were looking at him.”
Of the three players, it’s probably most likely he will sign on with another organization.
As for Rondon, he simply didn’t pitch well enough. He threw 10 innings in 10 games and allowed 10 runs, 13 hits and three homers, including two on Sunday. His fastball velocity steadily decreased through the spring.
“He was good worker,” Ausmus said. “We just want him to go down there and continue to not only work hard, but refine his pitching.”
Rondon, who was sent home by the club last September for a poor work ethic, handled himself in a far more professional manner this spring and began the process of mending fences with both the coaching staff and his teammates.
“He worked hard and his talent is off the charts,” catcher James McCann said. “He definitely has the ability when it’s all going together and he’s consistent.”
McCann and Rondon have been together in the organization since A-ball.
“The dude can hit triple digits and his off-speed has gotten a lot better,” McCann said. “I’ve had the pleasure of watching him get better. His slider and changeup is 100 times better than when we played A-ball together.
“I know he has the ability to help at this level.”
The battle for the final two roster spots, assuming lefty Kyle Ryan would replace lefty Hardy, is down to Buck Farmer, Logan Kensing, Lendy Castillo and possibly Shane Greene, who is the front-runner for the final spot in the rotation.
The Tigers have 36 players left in camp.