For the next seven weeks, Detroit Tigers fans will analyze every move right-hander Bruce Rondon makes. The spotlight will be focused squarely on him.
But it will be at least seven weeks and one day -- Opening Day in Minneapolis -- before the rookie closer faces his first true test.

Rondon can pitch. He is a top-rated prospect in the organization. His fastball is regularly clocked at more than 100 mph. The Tigers say he is far from a one-pitch pitcher, that he's not afraid to throw inside and that he has a closer's mentality. They say he's a hard worker who wants the ball in pressure situations.

But the true test for a young closer is how he fares with a game on the line in front of tens of thousands of fans with the stadium and TV camera lights shining bright. That is a difficult scenario to replicate during afternoon Grapefruit League games in February or March.


The Tigers seem likely to use Rondon in a variety of situations this spring. Which pitchers are used in which games is planned ahead of time, so there is no guarantee that the Tigers will find themselves with ninth-inning leads on the days Rondon pitches.
The Tigers are unlikely to use him exclusively in the ninth inning anyway. They will likely want to see him pitch against other team's starters, who are usually removed after a couple at-bats early in spring training.

The Tigers have proven that they are serious about giving Rondon a shot by not signing another closer. They know that spring games won't provide a true test for him, so they are clearly dedicated to giving him a shot once the season starts.

Can things change between now and then? Of course they can. But it is clear that something drastic will have to happen for someone besides Rondon to start the season as the closer. He would have to have a disastrous spring to lose that opportunity.

That seems unlikely.