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Rondon denies purposeful HBP vs. Moose

Tigers reliever, along with teammates, moving on from benches-clearing incident with Royals
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Bruce Rondon said he did not hit Mike Moustakas on purpose, that he did not talk with teammates about the incident and that he's keeping focused on his job amid speculation about his future with the Tigers.

The Venezuelan-born reliever spoke with reporters Saturday for the first time since his 99-mph fastball hit Moustakas on his hip Wednesday night, sparking a benches-clearing situation on the field between the Tigers and Royals in a 16-2 Detroit loss.

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DETROIT -- Bruce Rondon said he did not hit Mike Moustakas on purpose, that he did not talk with teammates about the incident and that he's keeping focused on his job amid speculation about his future with the Tigers.

The Venezuelan-born reliever spoke with reporters Saturday for the first time since his 99-mph fastball hit Moustakas on his hip Wednesday night, sparking a benches-clearing situation on the field between the Tigers and Royals in a 16-2 Detroit loss.

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Rondon, answering questions through interpreter Bryan Loor-Almonte, said he was just trying to pitch inside when he threw two 98-99 mph fastballs in on Moustakas, hitting him with the second one and drawing an immediate ejection from home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn.

"I tried to go inside, but just lost control in terms of just it went too inside," Rondon said through the interpreter. "That's about it."

Asked about the Royals' reaction, Rondon said he felt as though they were looking for ill intent, because he never signaled to them that he was going to hit anybody. Rondon said he did not take offense to Lorenzo Cain scoring from second on a single in the ninth inning.

"That's part of the game," he said.

It's the second time in three years that a situation has risen out of Rondon pitching in a lower-leverage situation. Two years ago, he was sent home with a couple weeks left in the season for what was classified as effort level in a game after being taken out of the closer's job. Royals starter Danny Duffy suggested Wednesday the Tigers should send him home "if he doesn't want to compete in a situation that's not sexy," and manager Brad Ausmus said Friday that Rondon is more effective when he's "into the outing."

Rondon said he understood the situation behind him pitching Wednesday after talking with Ausmus during batting practice on Friday -- that he hadn't pitched in three days and they wanted him to get work. He confirmed what Ausmus said Friday night, that he was told to be ready for the eighth inning, which had been his usual role since returning in June.

Rondon on Friday inherited a 5-3 lead with the top of the formidable Astros order due up, but he allowed back-to-back singles from Derek Fisher and Jose Altuve ahead of Josh Reddick's go-ahead three-run homer off a hanging slider en route to Detroit's 6-5 loss. He had trouble commanding his pitches, he said, and couldn't get his fastball involved in the at-bat.

Rondon lets Tigers' lead slip away in big spot

Neither Ausmus nor general manager Al Avila nor Major League Baseball -- which as a rule investigates benches-clearing incidents and ejections -- talked with him about any potential discipline. All he was told, he said, was to keep working hard and move on.

As for his teammates, Rondon said he has not spoken to them about Wednesday's incident, that they had decided to move on from the blowout loss.

"The whole team decided to just turn the page and not focus on what happened," Rondon said through the interpreter.

Earlier Saturday, Ausmus said he has not spoken with Rondon about his role going forward. He would not say when or whether Rondon would be pitching. Rondon later said he's trying to focus on what he can control and doing his job, whatever it is.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Bruce Rondon