Tigers can’t explain Rondon’s velocity drop vs. Phillies

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Bruce Rondon

Clearwater, Fla. – Reliever Bruce Rondon made his final spring outing with the Detroit Tigers on Sunday before joining up with Team Venezuela for the WBC Monday.

It was a curious one.

Coming off a strong, two-strikeout scoreless inning Thursday, Rondon was not sharp. He faced four batters, went to full counts on three of them, walked two and wound up giving up the three deciding runs in an 8-5 loss to the Phillies.

He threw 23 pitches, just 10 strikes. And his fastball, normally upper-90s, was sitting steady at 93-94, touching 95 once.

Manager Brad Ausmus was asked if he thought Rondon was still building arm strength.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll find out. He’s leaving now to pitch for Venezuela. He’s got it in him to throw 100. Maybe he’s just easing himself into it right now and doesn’t want to let the air out of it too early.”

Norris rebounds with efficient outing in Tigers loss

Ausmus will be watching Rondon’s WBC outings intently. He thinks the charged-up atmosphere of those games will bring out the best in him.

“It wouldn’t shock me if he got into a game with adrenalin and the velocity went up a tick, or more,” he said.

One for Mahtook

Center fielder Mikie Mahtook got his first hit of the spring, snapping an 0-for-12 skid.

Playing time for the players battling for the center field job has been disjointed, mostly because the coaching staff needs to evaluate so many players (Mahtook, Tyler Collins, JaCoby Jones, Anthony Gose, Juan Perez, Alex Presley, Andrew Romine).

Not that Mahtook is complaining.

“Everybody would rather play as much as they can,” he said. “But it’s spring training and it’s still early. Everybody is trying to get their at-bats. You just have to try and do as much as you can with what you get.”

Briefly 

Maybe it’s a good thing Clay Buchholz is pitching in the National League with the Phillies now. The former Red Sox right-hander hit Miguel Cabrera in the arm when they last faced each other last August. And Buchholz hit him again in the first inning Sunday, under the arm pit. Cabrera was seething as he went to first base.

Twitter @cmccosky