On a cold night in the Furniture City, the Tigers made it clear Wednesday they haven't cooled on Bruce Rondon as their 2013 closer.

And as for that crowded starting rotation Dave Dombrowski is pondering 2-1/2 weeks before spring camp convenes at Lakeland, Fla., the general manager isn't worried. He figures Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly will settle that issue — if a pre-camp trade doesn't first do it.

Dombrowski was on hand Wednesday for the West Michigan Whitecaps annual dinner at the DeVos Center, where Dombrowski was the featured speaker, christening a new season of baseball for the Tigers' low Single A minor-league affiliate.

Rondon is 22 and throws a fastball at 102 (mph). If his heater isn't weaponry enough to vaporize a batter, he has a slider to match. The Tigers need a closer following the departure of Jose Valverde and have all but handed Rondon the job.

Dombrowski understands fans' concerns. They stem from Rondon's youth, his historic battles with the strike zone (pretty much conquered in 2012), and the specter of a young man's nerves disintegrating before bright lights, loud crowds, and heavy hitters that dot the big leagues.

"He's unproven," Dombrowski conceded as he, Smyly, and outfielders Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks forged a four-man Tigers celebrity contingent. "We're not anointing him. But he's a leading candidate for the job, which we think he can do."

Fans and national pundits wonder when the Tigers will add some brand of shopworn closer as insurance for Rondon. And they wonder, too, about that 4.41 ERA Rondon rang up during his 18-game sojourn in Venezuela.

In fact, Rondon had only two bad outings during his Caribbean stretch, when he was rapped for a combined nine of the 16 hits he allowed in 16-1/3 innings (19 strikeouts, six walks). But Rondon allowed only two walks during those two ugly games. The problem, Dombrowski said Wednesday, was anticipated.

"When something bad happens, he'll get a little wild and overthrow," Dombrowski said of a Tigers prospect who has been mentioned by virtually every team with whom the Tigers have talked trade during the past year. "But we hope with our veteran catchers they're going to be able to stop that.

"Overall, he threw the ball very well down there."

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130124/SPORTS0104/301240356#ixzz2Iu71hGoG