Parnell, Tigers believe he can pitch well again

Veteran reliever gets chance to make club as non-roster invitee

February 19th, 2016

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Bobby Parnell was looking for a landing spot with a chance to win and a good role in the bullpen. The Tigers were looking for one more reliever with rebound potential for a non-roster invite.

It was a match that drew mutual interest from early in the offseason. When the backlog of free-agent relievers finally settled out this week with Minor League deals, the match finally culminated Thursday in a non-roster invite to camp.

Tigers' Spring Training info

"I had several teams interested, so it was a long process on my end trying to sort through everything and everything squared away," Parnell said Friday morning. "Detroit was in there very early. It was a team that I was very interested in. The possibilities here are high, and it definitely opened my eyes when they were interested in me. …

"I'm looking at a team that can win. I think that the lineup and the arms are unbelievable here. For me personally, I feel like if I'm pitching well, I can pitch anywhere. I'm putting a lot of hope in myself that I can come out here and pitch and perform and be a part of this team that I feel like can go a long way."

The Tigers feel Parnell -- two years removed from Tommy John surgery, three years removed from a 22-save season with the Mets -- can pitch well again. He returned last June to make 30 appearances, but gave up 17 earned runs on 30 hits over 24 innings with more walks (17) than strikeouts (13).

Amid the struggles, Parnell felt at times like he had that pre-surgery form.

"There were flashes of my old self," he said. "I knew that I had a lot of work. Either my velocity was there or my location was there, but never a mixture of the two. So I knew that would come eventually, and I hope to have that this year."

General manager Al Avila confirmed the long-running mutual interest. However, the Tigers have lost players this offseason while creating 40-man roster space -- Kyle Lobstein went to Pittsburgh and Jefry Marte was traded to the Angels. The Tigers will still have to open a roster spot if Parnell makes the team, but players can be easier to pass through waivers at the end of Spring Training.

"He was one guy we'd been pursuing all winter long," Avila said. "Our problem was our 40-man roster's full."

Rondon returns

Bruce Rondon reported to camp with other Tigers pitchers, some of whom hadn't seen him since he was sent home from Detroit in mid-September. The hard-throwing right-hander began workouts with the team Friday, hoping to retake the bullpen spot he lost last September amid questions over his effort level.

Rondon, who threw a bullpen session Friday morning, did not get into the details over his dismissal, preferring to look forward.

"It was a decision made back then," he said through a translator. "I don't really want to go back to that, but it's a new season, and I'm ready to go."

Said manager Brad Ausmus: "He seemed to be a good frame of mind. Last season's in the past. We're hoping that he's the guy that the Tigers had thought he is for really the last three or four years, before I even arrived."

Rondon spent over a month as the closer last summer following the Joakim Soria trade before Neftali Feliz took over. With Francisco Rodriguez now on board to close, and Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson acquired to set up, Rondon will be fighting for a different role in the bullpen, though he won't be a long reliever.

"I don't know if I would push Bruce much past one inning," Ausmus said, "but we have discussed a potential issue with having so many short-inning guys that you need a long guy. We do have candidates that were on the team last year and probably will be this year, guys like Blaine Hardy and Alex Wilson."

Rondon is still catching up after being sidelined from workouts for about a month with the Chikungunya virus, which he caught in Venezuela.

"Feeling good," Rondon said. "Ready to go."

Quick hits

Rodriguez was the only no-show among pitchers and catchers Friday. The Venezuelan closer is still in the process of obtaining a work visa. The Tigers are hopeful he'll be in camp soon, but have no timetable for his arrival.