Bruce Rondon pitches 2 scoreless innings in return to Tigers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Bruce Rondon made the most of his first trip to the mound of the 2016 season to show the Detroit Tigers that he's a changed man.

The 25-year-old relief pitcher, who at one point was the odds-on favorite to nail down the closer's role for the Tigers, was recalled Sunday morning from Triple-A Toledo. His arrival marks the first time he has been up with the big club since he was abruptly dismissed from the team in September of last season.

After deciding to ship Rondon home, the Tigers cited "work ethic issues," following a few appearances in which his significant decline in velocity was perceived as him pout-pitching through outings.

Rondon was terrific in a rare multiple-innings outing Sunday against the Kansas City Royals, showing off a revamped delivery, his blazing fastball and a nasty slider with which he recorded three strikeouts. Over the course of two scoreless innings -- the first of which was aided by a pair of terrific defensive plays from veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler -- Rondon hit triple digits on the radar gun five times (topping out at 101 mph) and left his teammates and manager Brad Ausmus impressed with his dramatic improvement.

"He did an excellent job. He looked good," Ausmus said following the Tigers' 2-1 loss in 13 innings. "Has a little bit of a different delivery now. It's a bit of a different leg kick. It seemed to not only be effective, but it seemed like his fastball was getting on guys faster even more than it was in the past."

Before Sunday's game, Rondon, a native of Valencia, Venezuela, who has nine saves and a 3.74 ERA in 22 games with the Mud Hens this season, sounded determined to make the most of his recall.

"I'd like to thank the team for giving me the opportunity to come back to the major leagues, and I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity," Rondon said through a Spanish-language interpreter.

Rondon already has made some significant changes, however. He arrived in Kansas City on Sunday morning looking more svelte than he did during spring training in Lakeland, Florida.

Rondon said he has lost 15 pounds and also has made a mechanical adjustment in his delivery, eliminating the exaggerated hip turn that he had previously employed.

"The last six to eight outings, I've pitched well," Rondon said. "I've made some adjustments and I've pitched well since then."

After Sunday's game, Ausmus said: "All the reports are that his attitude's been real good."

"He's been working hard, [he] has lost some weight while down in Toledo," Ausmus said. "Hopefully, this is the Bruce Rondon that everyone's been dreaming about."

In addition to Rondon, the Tigers also recalled left-handed reliever Kyle Ryan to help spell a bullpen that has been heavily taxed the past two nights.

Ryan made the team with a strong showing in spring training, but he was sent down earlier this month to work on his ability to get out lefties.

Ausmus, who spoke with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon, said he has made progress in this area.

"We just asked him, 'If we need to get a lefty out, who would you use,' and he said, 'Kyle.' So that was the crux of it," Ausmus said.

Ryan, 24, is also eager to make the most out of the opportunity and feels the team has faith in his abilities.

"Knowing they have the trust to bring you up for the first game of the year and [to] stay that long, and put you in situations that I was put in, it's to the point that they know they want you up there," Ryan said. "It's up to me to get my job done in order to get there."

The Tigers also will likely have to make an additional roster move to account for Matt Boyd's next start -- Boyd was sent down following Saturday night's game -- but Ausmus declined to say which way the team was leaning. Former starter Anibal Sanchez has not been ruled out as a possibility.