03/03/2013 5:55 PM ET
Leyland isn't ruling out Rondon as his closer
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Bruce Rondon wasn't going to win or lose the closer's job a week-and-a-half into a four-week camp. With the attention focused on the position as one of the biggest questions for a contending team, though, he was going to set a tone either way.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said at the start of camp that he wouldn't be making day-by-day judgments of Rondon as a closer. Four appearances into Rondon's Spring Training, Leyland wasn't going to break from that, but he wasn't going to ignore the early results either.
"Right now, he's throwing pretty hard," Leyland said, "and they're hitting it pretty hard."
That said, Leyland stopped short of making evaluations. With just under four weeks of games left in this long camp, he isn't in the declarations business.
"I think it's too early to get excited about anything," Leyland cautioned.
While most of the focus has been on command, Rondon actually threw strikes at a decent rate on Sunday. His damage largely came from the strikes the Braves hit. Tyler Pastornicky jumped a fastball over the plate, Rondon's third pitch of the day, and pulled it to left for a home run leading off the inning. Justin Upton followed a walk to Jason Heyward with a double deep into the gap in right-center, also off a fastball, for a second run.
Rondon induced a Freddie Freeman groundout and struck out B.J. Upton to prevent any further damage. Still, he gave up multiple hits for the second consecutive outings. Rondon has walked at least one batter in all four appearances, five in all, but he also has six strikeouts. Two of those walks came in the rain against the Astros at Kissimmee, Fla.
Rondon has more strikeouts (six) than outs put in play (five). He also has almost as many baserunners (10) as outs (11). Those aren't numbers that would get an established closer in trouble in a camp -- Jonathan Papelbon gave up more damage against Detroit last Monday than Rondon has all spring -- but they aren't statistics that will forge confidence in a rookie closer either.
Several Rondon fastballs came in around 96 mph on the radar gun at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, but Leyland dismissed the question of whether Rondon might be taking a few miles per hour off to aim the ball.
V-Mart scheduled to return against Blue Jays
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Backing off on Victor Martinez's workload continued for a second consecutive day on Sunday, but manager Jim Leyland put a timetable on it, saying his designated hitter will return to the Tigers' lineup for Wednesday's game against the Blue Jays.
That, Leyland suggested, was part of the plan. Moreover, his description suggested another break should be coming later this spring.
"This was planned all along," Leyland said before Sunday's game against the Braves. "We're going to get him some at-bats, then back him off a little bit, get him some at-bats, back him off a little bit."
"I'll watch him close. I've got to watch him, because he wants to go on every trip and play in every game. And to the advice of the trainers, [we're going to] just be careful. I appreciate Victor's eagerness because he's so thrilled to be back, and I'm thrilled to death to have him back."
Martinez had 17 plate appearances in Detroit's first six games this spring before his first off-day of camp Thursday, when the Tigers faced the Rays in Port Charlotte. Martinez started against the Mets on Friday in Port St. Lucie, but had just two at-bats before being replaced rather than his usual three.
Martinez wasn't in uniform either of the Tigers' split-squad games Saturday, and didn't take part in batting practice, which along with a grimace reportedly seen on a swing Friday led to speculation about his health. Given his recovery from season-ending knee surgery last season, it was bound to happen.
Leyland reiterated that Martinez is healthy.
"You're searching," Leyland said. "Victor is fine, trust me. You guys are being real suspicious. Victor is absolutely fine. The trainers told me coming in [to] get him going, get him going good. ... Get him an at-bat, back him off, get him going again, back him off, then peak him for the season. That's been the plan all along with it.
"Somebody saw him grimace the other day, so they think Victor's hurt. Victor is not hurt, trust me."
Diaz dazed but fine after being hit in helmet
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Minor League shortstop Argenis Diaz was dazed but apparently OK, according to Tigers manager Jim Leyland, after taking a pitch off his helmet in Sunday's loss to the Braves.
Diaz, a non-roster invitee to camp who has spent the last two seasons at Triple-A Toledo, came up in the seventh inning after Aaron Westlake's home run. Braves right-hander Juan Jaime threw inside on Diaz and missed up, hitting him in the head.
Diaz remained on his feet in a squatting position, but was clearly dazed as Leyland and an athletic trainer made their way out.
"He was dazed," Leyland said, "but never unconscious."
Diaz walked off under his own power as Eugenio Suarez pinch-ran for him.
Tigers want Kobernus to get time in left field
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jeff Kobernus has appeared all over the outfield and at second base in the Tigers' quest to get him playing time, but with his best chance to make the team as a part-time left fielder, manager Jim Leyland plans to play him there more in the coming days.
Leyland said he consulted with team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski to make sure it's OK to play Nick Castellanos in right field, his position down the stretch last summer at Double-A, if need be to get Kobernus starts in left. While both are officially candidates for a role in left, Kobernus has the much stronger chance at a backup or platoon role if that's what the Tigers want alongside Andy Dirks.
Kobernus started in right field on Sunday before moving to center once Austin Jackson left the game in the middle of the fifth inning.
• Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh visited the Tigers at Sunday's game and watched pregame batting cage from behind the batting cage, where he had a long chat with Leyland.
"He asked me to take a picture with him. That made me feel good," Leyland said. "Usually I have to say, 'Do you mind if I take a picture with you?' He said it, so I thought, 'Well, I'm getting up there.'"
• Quintin Berry remains day to day after experiencing some continued discomfort in his left knee. Berry, who hasn't played in a week due to patellar tendinitis, was initially on track to play Sunday.