The Digital Journalism Blog

The Tiger’s Ninth Inning Solution

By: Jonathan Teich

In 2011, as the Detroit Tigers were making their run to the American League Championship series, every fan knew when Jose Valverde danced his way onto the mound the win was guaranteed.

Valverde converted every save opportunity during the 2011 season and finished the season with 49 saves, and extended his streak to 51 consecutive regular season saves which began in 2010 with the Houston Astros.

So heading into the 2012 season Tigers fans had high hopes that Valverde, also known as, Papa Grande, would be just as successful. Instead he performed his best Jekyll and Hyde impersonation and performed terribly all season. Instead of ensuring a victory he was only good for a potential heart attack.

The Tigers decided not to bring Papa Grande back for the 2013 season, and instead decided to give the young phenom Bruce Rondon an opportunity to win the closer job in spring training.

Rondon finished last season with an ERA of 1.53 and only gave up 9 runs in the minor leagues. His fastball has been clocked at 102 mph.

Seems like Rondon could have a lot of potential to be the future closer of the Detroit Tigers, right?

But now Rondon has struggles with control issues during spring training. In 5-2/3 innings this spring he has a 4.76 ERA walked five, struck out nine, and allowed six hits.

With the season only 18 days away the Tigers need to find a consistent closer if they make back-to-back World Series Appearances.

So here are some potential solutions.

  1. Closer by committee: The Tigers already have plenty of capable arms in the back of the bullpen who can fill in until Rondon may be ready. These include Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, and current set-up man Joaquin Benoit. It may not be the ideal situation but it would provide the Tigers with a very solid option, without having to look outside of the organization.
  2. Free-Agent Closer: There is still time to go out and bring someone in to be your everyday closer. But at this point in Spring Training they would have to overpay for someone. Some name still on the market include last years closer Jose Valverde, who still can’t find a new home after a rough season. There is also Brian Wilson who is trying to come back after Tommy John Surgery used to be one of the best closers in baseball but who knows how reliable he might be after surgery.
  3. Trading for a Closer: There were some rumors that the Tigers were interested in the Cubs Carlos Marmol. He has the stuff to be able shut down hitters in the ninth inning, but like Valverde he is a walking heart attack. He is very inconsistent and blew 10 saves in 2011. Tigers fans do not want to endure any more pain with losing games in the ninth inning again. Plus if the Tigers want to entice a team to trade a great closer they are going to have to give up a lot in order to get him. Once a team has a solid closer, they do not want to let him go.
  4. Rick Porcello: This may seem like an absolutely crazy idea. But I have seen others mention it and it could make a lot of sense. Drew Smyly is currently battling for the fifth starter spot in the rotation. This would keep Porcello on the roster in case Smyly gets injured and he could then return to the rotation. But Porcello’s arsenal relies on the ground ball, which can help as a closer to help his fielders make the easy outs. This would be a last resort but I think if necessary it would not be a bad option.

Hopefully Bruce Rondon is able to work out his control issues soon, but if the Tigers do go to plan B. But if he isn’t able too by opening day, I think the closer by committee option is the best choice. It gives you the chance to still give Rondon some opportunities with not putting all of the pressure on the young closer. Coke, Dotel, and Benoit are available to help Rondon out if he struggles.

Note: This post was written as if it could appear on


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