By: RICKY LINDSAY, STAFF REPORTER
The Detroit Tigers are widely considered baseball’s best team heading into the 2013 season. A strong spring training has fueled their presence as favorites for a return trip to the World Series. With almost all the positional spots locked down, the Tigers still have a hole at closer, with no one answer given by management at this point.
Bruce Rondon has been shaky early in spring training and his legitimacy as the Tigers answer to their closer search has been questionable, but the righty does possess blazing speed on his fastball that routinely gets swings and misses from opposing hitters.
He’s pitched in eight games this spring and has at least one strikeout in each of them, racking up 13 in 7.2 innings pitched.
Rondon has been dominant of late, throwing four scoreless outings while allowing only one walk during that span. His control has improved as well, as he struck out the side against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 16.
Another option within the organization is Phil Coke, who took over as the Tigers’ closer in the 2012 American League Championship Series. Coke relies on his fastball and slider to get hitters out, and was successful during clutch situations in the postseason. He allowed only one run in 10.2 innings pitched in the postseason, racking up 13 strikeouts in the process.
So far this spring, Coke has allowed three runs and struck out five in seven innings. He would also be an enticing option for Jim Leyland as Coke is a left hander.
The Tigers could also look to the free agent market for an option at closer. Former San Francisco Giant closer Brian Wilson has yet to find a home after having his second Tommy John surgery in his career. Wilson’s eccentric attitude, dominance, and beard made him a fan favorite around the league.
Wilson saved 163 games, struck out 297 batters, and had a 3.21 ERA from 2008 to 2011.
If all else fails, the Tigers could go with a closer-by-committee, in which Leyland selects who to close games based on statistics, opposing batters, and which reliever has the hot hand.
The Giants used this method last season when Wilson went down in April, and it was successful, as the team went on to find their closer before the postseason and won their second World Series in three years, sweeping the Tigers in four games.