DETROIT -- The Tigers still see Bruce Rondon as their closer of the future. Their idea to use him as an extra reliever for the present, however, wasn't working out.
"He's just not ready for this," manager Jim Leyland said. "And when I say that, please don't think anybody's down on him, because we think he's a future closer at the Major League level. But I just can't get him enough work right now."
Thus, Rondon is headed back to Triple-A Toledo to be the closer there. The Tigers optioned him on Wednesday after a rough seventh inning in the Tigers' 6-2 loss to the Twins. They'll recall right-hander Luke Putkonen from Toledo on Thursday before they open a four-game series in Houston.
It's the second time in five weeks the Tigers have optioned Rondon, both times after he battled control issues. The first time, they sent him out at the end of a long Spring Training audition for the closer's job. This time, he barely pitched at all.
The 22-year-old Rondon arrived from the Mud Hens eight days ago to replace the injured Octavio Dotel in the bullpen. He pitched in back-to-back games last week, giving up a game-tying run to the Royals last Thursday before delivering a scoreless ninth inning in Friday's rout of the Braves.
From there, however, he didn't pitch again until Wednesday, when two hits and two walks led to two insurance runs for the Twins in the seventh inning to pull away. Though his fastball hit 101 mph on the Comerica Park radar gun, the Twins hit it for a leadoff triple from slumping rookie Aaron Hicks and an RBI single for Pedro Florimon.
"Throw it hard, charge it hard," Leyland summarized.
Once Rondon issued back-to-back walks to load the bases, he was visibly frustrated with himself before Leyland made the long walk to pull him. Shortly after that, he was optioned.
"He wants to be here bad and doesn't want to go down, obviously, and I understand that," Leyland said. "But right now, it's best for him. We think the world of him. We think he's got a big future. I think just the best way to put it is that he's not ready for this just yet."
Putkonen, who turns 27 next week, returns for his fifth stint with the Tigers in a year. He was up and down four times as a long reliever last season and was a candidate for the same role this Spring Training before being sent out near the end of camp. He has allowed six runs (four earned) on 14 hits in 16 2/3 innings with five walks and 16 strikeouts in eight games for the Hens.
Garcia optioned to Triple-A by Tigers
DETROIT -- Avisail Garcia's next step was always going to be Triple-A Toledo. It will not, however, be a rehab assignment.
While Phil Coke went on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, the Tigers took Garcia off of it. They then optioned him to the Mud Hens, where he'll pick up his learning process with his first Triple-A stint.
Garcia opened the season on the DL with a bruised right heel he sustained in mid-March while he was competing for a spot on Detroit's Opening Day roster. He spent the past week on rehab with Class A Lakeland, going 10-for-24 with two triples, a home run, nine runs, four RBIs and two stolen bases in six games for the Flying Tigers.
Even with the Tigers' season-opening struggles to get production out of left field, Garcia was always going to need Minor League games somewhere to make up for lost time. While a hot start in Toledo could put him in the conversation to rejoin the Tigers, Andy Dirks' recent production and a good opening month from Matt Tuiasosopo in a part-time role have settled down things in left.
Tigers won't let aggressiveness slide with Victor
DETROIT -- The first reaction from Tigers fans whenever Victor Martinez slides home on a play at the plate is going to be the same: How's the knee?
After a 2012 season lost to knee surgery, it's a natural reaction, not just from fans but from team officials. But it's not going to stop the Tigers from being aggressive with him rounding third on base hits.
With that in mind, manager Jim Leyland said he had no problem with third-base coach Tom Brookens' decision to send Martinez home Tuesday night on Andy Dirks' single to right. A high, arcing throw from Chris Parmelee beat Martinez home just enough for catcher Joe Mauer to make a swipe tag as he slid by.
"It was a no-brainer. He should have been sent home, and he was sent home," Leyland said. "He was out, but he should have been sent home, without question."
That doesn't mean Martinez doesn't warrant special consideration, Leyland said. When Jeff Francoeur easily threw out Martinez at the plate earlier in the homestand, by enough of a margin that Martinez simply veered back towards the dugout, Leyland said Brookens had made a mistake.
Still, there's a balance.
"That's one of the arts of being a good third-base coach," Leyland said.