Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he planned to spend a lot of time with rookie fireballer Bruce Rondon during spring training.

Rondon, who progressed from Class A to Double-A to Triple-A last season, has a realistic shot to be the Tigers' closer this season.

"It's kind of a neat situation, and it's kind of one of those where you got a little anxiety," Leyland said Wednesday at Fifth Third Field, site of the Mud Hens' annual Fandemonium event. "We open, obviously, in Minnesota. So, maybe he can get his feet wet. But it will be a little different when you get to Comerica Park and those fans and (Justin) Verlander probably pitching Opening Day, and possibility to save one for Verlander. Who knows?

"I got a lot of patience. We'll see how (Rondon) looks. The one thing about spring training -- he doesn't know this -- but I'm going to spend a lot of time with him. He won't know I'm spending time with him, but I am. And I'm going to get a feel for what he's like."

Leyland wants to get a feel for how Rondon deals with failure and success. In 52 games last season in Lakeland, Erie and Toledo, Rondon pitched 53 innings, converting 29 of 32 opportunities, striking out 66, walking 26 and posting a 1.53 ERA.

"I'm excited about the Rondon situation," Leyland said. "That's obviously going to be a big topic, let's face it."

Leyland said everyone would like to have an experienced closer and that a lot of good teams did.

"We're a real good team, there's no question about that," Leyland said. "The names on the back are really good. But you have to play good."

Leyland knows there will be growing pains with Rondon, a 22-year-old right-hander from Venezuela who routinely hits 100 m.p.h. with his fastball.