White Sox will see what Bruce Rondon has left

Velocity, weight and mindset were difficult to maintain during his days in Detroit

The White Sox have stockpiled a whole bunch of semi-credible relief candidates using minor-league contracts. None of them look particularly overpowering.

You can ignore the lefties, because they’re geared toward different purposes. If T.J. House is right, he’s an extra starter or swingman. If Xavier Cedeno is right, he’s a strong LOOGY who can get away with facing righties when one batter doesn’t matter.

The pool of righties is where you’d look for some untapped full-inning effectiveness, but this pool isn’t particularly inspiring. Here’s what they’re working with:

At this time last year, Anthony Swarzak stood out for a couple reasons. His strikeout rate had doubled over the course of two seasons, and that’s because he started throwing his slider more often than his fastball after years of going for grounders. He also gave up a ton of homers with the Yankees in 2016, which was the reason they let him go in his final year of team control, but the makings of a good reliever were there as long as a team was in a position to absorb bad relief work. The Sox won that gamble. So did Swarzak, for that matter. He received a two-year, $14 million contract from the Mets.

With Beck and Ynoa, we know it’s a matter of control and/or command, and Don Cooper was their pitching coach. FanGraphs wrote up Germen for having two effective secondary pitches in small samples, but it hasn’t translated to larger ones. Perhaps the White Sox have some changes in mind for one or more of these guys, but from here, the only prescription is more better strikes, which is the cure for every middling pitcher.

But now here comes Bruce Rondon.

The White Sox reportedly signed the former Tiger to a minor-league contract, and his past is a difficult one to chart. He had all the ingredients to be a successful major-league reliever, with a high-90s fastball and a slider he had no problem throwing.

Alas, Tommy John surgery killed the momentum from a positive debut in 2013, and the Tigers didn’t like his work ethic afterward. He finally resurfaced with quality work during the second half of 2016, but he showed up the following year with his velocity trending in the opposite direction of his weight. That combination resulted in a 10.91 ERA over 21 games scattered between early April and midsummer. He also showed that he hadn’t put the emotional issues behind him when he plunked Mike Moustakas for reasons his teammates couldn’t defend last July.

Bless You Boys described the current state of his arsenal after the Tigers designated him for assignment in early December:

Rondon never recovered the triple-digit fastball that led to the lofty early appraisals of his potential. His command never recovered either. On the other hand, his slider has improved over the years, and he’ll be a project for another coaching staff. Without the 100 mile per hour heat, however, his fastball has proved a dud in the major leagues. At this point he’s just another failed arm for teams to experiment with.

And so the White Sox are taking the first crack at him.

I wouldn’t hold out hope that Rondon turns the corner. In fact, I’m guessing that he’s not even the best Rondon acquired by the White Sox this winter. Right now, we can just say he adds a needed dose of intrigue to the proceedings, in that his variance is wider than he is. Maybe he arrives in better shape with more life on his fastball, motivated to prove the Tigers wrong. Maybe the White Sox turn him into an effective slider-first pitcher.

Oooooooorrrr … maybe he starts a Cactus League brawl. Maybe he stops showing up.

The most likely result is that he won’t separate himself from the other veteran Triple-A options, but all of these things are theoretically in play, and spring training is the time for unfettered optimism.

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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The Sox’ 2017-18 bullpen looks to be the most effective recycling program in the City of Chicago.

Lurker Laura

Not optimistic about this one. Coop and the staff have shown skill with certain types of reclamation projects – but emotionally erratic and overweight aren’t two of them.


Isn’t “emotionally erratic and overweight” kind of a description of Coop? I’d think this guy is right up his alley.


Coop is not overweight.


are you the president’s doctor, gib?

Lurker Laura

He’s the exception proving the rule, or something.


Confirmation bias.  I like him as a project.


Speaking of Cooper projects, Jenks was pretty good, but I would rate Matt Thornton as Don Cooper’s most significant bullpen turnaround project.   Before coming to the White Sox, Thornton couldn’t find the strike zone with a searchlight.

Among the starters, he also found a couple of good years out of Esteban Loaiza, a journeyman starter who came to the Sox in 2003 and went 21-9.  As I recall, he publicly credited Cooper with his turnaround.


All the Rondons.

Calling Cleuluis.


Not until after he picks up the kids from school this afternoon.


I still don’t think I know how to correctly pronounce that. I usually just avoid reading it in my head. Anyone have the phonetics on that?


I think it’s “Clay-oo-loo-ees”.

Edit: jumped the gun.

As Cirensica

I think that pronunciation is right on the money


Moustakas looked at him funny.

Greg Nix

27 y.o. and a year removed from ML success. Three years of team control. There are definitely worse bets you could make for a turnaround.


Agreed.  Give it a shot.  Probably needs some bipolar meds, will straighten him right out.  Did a world of good for larry.

Lurker Laura

Heh, good one.

This is definitely a good gamble on the Sox’s part. Like I said, I’m not optimistic, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. Somebody was going to, might as well be the Sox.

Josh Nelson

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Josh Nelson

Update: Players 3, Teams 1