With Buck Farmer's spot start in Cleveland complete after an 8-2 loss on Wednesday, the Tigers optioned him back to Triple-A Toledo and brought their bullpen back to full strength by recalling Rondon. The hard-throwing right-hander's next appearance will be his first in the Majors since September 2013, completing a long road back from Tommy John surgery last year, tendinitis in Spring Training and overall struggles on his rehab assignment with Toledo last month.
Whether this is the outing that gets his career back on its previous trajectory remains to be seen, but the Tigers could use him.
Rondon was an outing away from making the Opening Day roster when bicipital tendinitis shelved him in the final days of Spring Training. What was hoped to be a brief stint on the disabled list ended up lasting two months with recurring soreness that halted his throwing program multiple times.
Rondon got back to game action May 21 on rehab with the Mud Hens, but struggled to shake off the rust and get outs. He gave up 10 earned runs on 15 hits over 8 2/3 innings with five walks and nine strikeouts in nine games with Toledo. His fastball ranged from the mid-to-upper 90s, but it proved difficult for him to locate.
It was enough of a concern that the Tigers optioned him to Toledo when they activated him from the DL last week.
"I think he was pitching down there more with the idea that he was preparing, getting his body prepared," manager Brad Ausmus said last week. "Not that he's not trying to get the guys out, but the priority was to get his arm and body ready. But now he's in a situation where he's got to get outs."
From there, the results vastly improved. Rondon gave up a hit and a walk over four scoreless innings with five strikeouts, throwing 73 percent of his pitches for strikes. He struck out the side in order for the Mud Hens on Tuesday at Durham.
If he commands his fastball at the upper 90s, with triple digits mixed in, the Tigers will take their chances of having him learn on the job. For all his talent, he still has just over a half-season of Major League service time, something that will likely factor into how he's used early on.
The Tigers could eventually gain some setup relief depth in a spot where they've had to lean on Joba Chamberlain as much or more than they did last season. Alex Wilson has also provided seventh- and eighth-inning support lately, shifting out of a long relief role.