Verlander tunes up

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) – The Detroit Tigers opened spring training expecting Bruce Rondon to be their closer.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland refuses to commit to the rookie right-hander, who been erratic this spring and struggled again in a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday.

Cole Hamels had his final start of the spring for the Phillies and pitched three scoreless innings, while Justin Verlander, who will start for the Tigers in Minnesota on opening day, allowed an earned run in 5 2/3 innings.

Despite Philadelphia’s and Detroit’s aces putting in quality work, Rondon remained the topic in the Tigers’ clubhouse.

He pitched only 2/3 of an inning in relief and allowed two earned runs, raising his spring ERA to 5.84. Rondon also walked two and was charged with a balk.

Leyland wouldn’t give any final comment on the closer situation. He has said all spring he is only comfortable if he has a regular closer and that a bullpen by committee isn’t his first choice. He said he has answered every question he can about Rondon and the closer situation.

“We need to stop talking about Rondon,” Leyland said. “A soon as I have any answer I’ll let you know.”

Rondon has never pitched in the majors but can hit 100 mph on the radar gun. Catcher Alex Avila said he’s impressed by what he’s seen.

“He really looks OK,” Avila said. “Everyone has placed all these high expectations on him. They expect him to strike out three batters every inning and that’s just not going to happen.”