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Rondon to begin likely lengthy rehab stint

Reliever has to build endurance in Triple-A; Verlander progressing in rehab

DETROIT -- The road back to the Tigers' bullpen for Bruce Rondon goes through Triple-A Toledo starting on Thursday. It is not expected to be a quick stop.

When Rondon unleashes his first fastball for the Mud Hens on Thursday night against Buffalo, it'll be the start of a buildup process for the 24-year-old. Eventually, that will have to include throwing on back-to-back days, the final step that Rondon was in the process of clearing when right biceps tendinitis flared up on him with less than a week before Opening Day.

The back-to-back outings have not yet been mapped out, but Rondon's first two outings are. If all goes well on Thursday, the hard-throwing right-hander will pitch again for the Mud Hens on Sunday night.

That's all the Tigers have scheduled for now, but that won't be the end of his rehab assignment.

"We want to see how he comes through Sunday," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But Monday would not be the [second of] back-to-back [days]."

From there, the Mud Hens start a 10-game, 10-day road trip -- albeit with relatively easy travel -- to Louisville, Indianapolis and Columbus.

Rondon's return, if he's healthy and comfortable throwing a 100-mph fastball, could be a godsend for a Tigers bullpen looking to stabilize the bridge between starting pitchers and closer Joakim Soria. However, it could also lead to a decision for team officials on whom to send out. Joba Chamberlain and Al Alburquerque have set roles, and Angel Nesbitt has worked his way into tighter situations. Alex Wilson is unlikely to go given his success in long relief. And Detroit is already down to two lefty relievers with Blaine Hardy and Tom Gorzelanny. Something would have to give.

Other injury news:

Justin Verlander is scheduled to throw a lengthy bullpen session on Friday that will include him sitting down and getting back up to simulate the cooldown and ramp-up between innings. He'll throw his regular pregame warmup routine of 40-50 pitches, sit down, then throw 15-20 pitches, according to Ausmus.

"We just want to make sure that after he's thrown off the mound and he gets back, that he still feels OK," Ausmus said.

Joe Nathan made an appearance in the Tigers' clubhouse for the first time since undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery last month. The former closer had his right arm in a brace.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.
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