Take a look at the competition for the set-up role for the Detroit Tigers and you find two hard-throwing right-handed pitchers who were once highly-regarded “closers of the future.”
In Bruce Rondon‘s case, those days of being a closer may still lie ahead; he is still only 23 years old and was a rookie last season. In Joba Chamberlain‘s case, those days of ‘Joba rules’ and times as a future closer happened while he was with the New York Yankees. Things went sour for a number of reasons. He may or may not close again and is simply trying to carve out a significant role in Detroit’s bullpen.
Manager Brad Ausmus says the competition to pitch the 8th inning in front of closer Joe Nathan will come down to those two pitchers (quotes from Chris Iott of MLive.com):
Right now, Joba Chamberlain and Bruce Rondon are probably the two guys in my mind who you think about as eighth-inning guys for the team…Performances will determine who actually ends up being the eighth-inning guy. That being said, it could change once you move into the season. … Even if I know coming out of spring training who that is it doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way.”
In 30 appearances last season, Rondon had a 3.47 ERA and a 9.4 K/9 mark. In 42 innings for the Yankees and in the midst of some uncertainty about his role, Chamberlain had a 4.93 ERA and a 8.1 K/9 mark. Both pitchers still have some upside, giving the Tigers good options for the back of the bullpen.