The Tigers bullpen this season has thrown only 223 innings, second fewest in the American League behind the Royals. They certainly haven't been taxed. Yet, manager Jim Leyland has admitted that he hasn't done a good job of getting his pen in sync.
If the Tigers are to make a deep run in the post season this year, the bullpen will have to improve. The Tigers also realize that they will have to add a part or two at the deadline.
Don't look for the Tigers to trade for an established closer this July. The pickins are slim and even the stablished guys are struggling at times. Jonathan Papelbon, Fernando Rodney, Jim Johnson and Andrew Bailey have all dealt with elevated blown save numbers. Combined, they have blown 19 saves this year. The cost to acquire a front line guy will also be steep.
Instead, I expect the Tigers to add an arm or two to beef up the depth of the pen.
While any acquisitions the Tigers make before the trading deadline will be key, so too will the performance of some of the in-house pieces the Tigers currently have. Al Alburquerque, Rondon and Phil Coke have to pitch up to expectations. Alburquerque has wipe-out stuff and Rondon can be a big wild card in that respect.
Rondon's first shot at the big time fizzled in spring training when the pressure of winning the closer's job was just too much. A subsequent call to Detroit in late April prompted Leyland to admit that he was just not ready.
Rondon's numbers in Toledo this season were very good. He had a WHIP of 0.91 and 40 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings. Hopefully the announcement that he will not close this time around will help him settle into a spot in the pen that will allow him to succeed.
The pieces are there, and with a few additions in July, it could be a good bullpen.