• Bruce Rondon was optioned to AAA Thursday, ending speculation as to whether the flamethrowing, but wild, 22-year-old was going to break camp as the Tigers closer. Rondon didn’t help his case by allowing 17 hits and nine walks in 12.1 innings this spring, but has a live enough arm that he should climb into the Tigers bullpen at some point (whether or not as closer remains to be seen).
Unfortunately, this seems to have created a messy committee of sorts in Motown, with Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel and Al Alburquerque all potentially in line for some ninth inning duties. Benoit (2.66 SIERA, 29.2% K% in 2012) and Coke (3.35, 20.8%) currently lead the pack as the hot options on the waiver wire. The former fits the traditional ninth inning mold with a well-above average SwStr% but Coke’s low K% and significant lefty/righty splits raise red flags. He may have saved a few games last posteason, but I’m not banking on him stealing a ton more saves. Alburquerque and his 2.97 SIERA merit some consideration (Wiers likes him!) and, although he’s 39, Dotel has the peripherals and “experience” tag as well. With all four potential options, the best strategy here might be waiting until two or three names come off the board before snagging the fourth as a roll-of-the-dice play. There just doesn’t seem to be enough clear-cut distinctions to merit spending anything but a last round draft pick or a dollar or two of FAAB on any of these guys until someone gets hot and tries to run with the job.
• After watching Joel Hanrahan pitch during Boston’s final spring training game this afternoon, I’m still not thoroughly convinced his walk problems are behind him. The box score doesn’t look terrible, but he went to 3-0 on a few Twins backups and gave up a couple rockets once he had to force some “get me over” fastballs down the heart of the plate. He just looks like (pardon the cliché) more of a thrower than a pitcher right now, with an observable inability to hit the catcher’s mitt. We’ve talked some about his BB% spike last year (up to 14.2% after being in the single digits during 2010-2011) and it’s growing more unlikely that those numbers were a total aberration. It’s possible he’s just ironing out some kinks and will return to being a sub-3.00 xFIP pitcher come Monday when the Sox open 2013, but since Boston has a few solid fallback options in Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara, and Junichi Tazawa, I’m steering clear of Hanrahan in all my drafts this weekend.
• Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that Cardinals closer Jason Motte is going to open the season on the disabled list with a flexor tendon strain in his pitching elbow. Mitchell Boggs has already been named as his replacement, so hopefully you were quick to the wire (or play with a group of slower managers). The Cardinals are being rather tight-lipped about Motte’s return schedule and while they consider the injury “minor” right now, it’s worth noting that seemingly minor flexor tendon strains have ended in major surgery and long absences for guys like Ben Sheets and Colby Lewis. I referred to this in my “10 Bold Predictions” piece on Wednesday, but Motte may be out longer than a few weeks and Trevor Rosenthal (2.64 SIERA, 28.1% K% last year) makes for a nice speculative add in most leagues. He’ll help with your rates and if Motte’s injury turns out to be serious, he would have difference-making ability if he were to work his way into the closer role.
• Casey Janssen is on track to be ready for Opening Day and be the Blue Jays closer. He should be going ahead of Sergio Santos is most leagues by now. Jonny Venters is making the dreaded trip to James Andrews after coming out of a game last week with elbow soreness. He’s been dropped off the grid and should be off your radar if you’re looking for holds.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]