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Tigers to monitor Rondon's progress in Classic

Slow-starting fireballer left camp to pitch for Team Venezuela
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Bruce Rondon departed Tigers camp on Monday for Team Venezuela and the World Baseball Classic. He left several questions in his wake.

The big, mercurial right-hander could answer a lot of those questions with a strong performance -- and high velocity -- for Venezuela. After a hit, two walks and three runs allowed in Sunday's loss to the Phillies marked his final outing in a Detroit uniform for a while, the Tigers will be watching.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Bruce Rondon departed Tigers camp on Monday for Team Venezuela and the World Baseball Classic. He left several questions in his wake.

The big, mercurial right-hander could answer a lot of those questions with a strong performance -- and high velocity -- for Venezuela. After a hit, two walks and three runs allowed in Sunday's loss to the Phillies marked his final outing in a Detroit uniform for a while, the Tigers will be watching.

"He's got it in him to throw 100 [mph]," manager Brad Ausmus said, "and maybe he's just kind of easing himself into it now and doesn't want to let the air out of it too early, but it wouldn't shock me if he got into a game with some adrenaline in him and went up a tick or more."

That fastball hasn't been seen this spring. That isn't necessarily a surprise, given the early stages of camp. Rondon has seemingly been progressing slowly with his velocity and his intensity since his early bullpen sessions, trying to build with caution.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

Still, Rondon coupled his fastball Sunday with a struggle with command. He threw only 12 of his 23 pitches for strikes, including walks to two of his first three batters faced and a 3-1 count to his fourth and final batter. None of the batters were established players.

Rondon's fastball registered at 93-95 mph on the Spectrum Field radar gun, a velocity at which he can usually locate his pitches. His one out was a three-pitch strikeout on all fastballs, registering at 94, 93 and 95 mph.

Ausmus made it clear Rondon's issues aren't lack of effort. Asked if Rondon is building slowly by design, though, Ausmus shrugged.

"To be honest with you, we don't know," Ausmus said. "We'll find out. He's going to pitch for Venezuela."

Former Tigers infielder Carlos Guillen, who serves as the general manager for the Venezuelan team, said earlier this spring that Rondon has the chance to play a big role in the bullpen, given the schedule setup and pitch counts on starters.

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

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

Detroit Tigers, Bruce Rondon