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Bruce Rondon 'received well' by Tigers after Sept. dismissal

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Detroit Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon, who was sent home in September because of an issue with his work ethic, on Friday said he's been "received well" by his teammates at the start of spring training.

The embattled young pitcher declined to address what led to his abrupt dismissal at the end of last season.

"Everybody received me well," Rondon said Friday via a translator. "The guys received me well. And like I said, [I'm] ready for a new year."

Manager Brad Ausmus, however, said he hopes to see an improvement in the pitcher's professionalism.

"We want to see more maturity," Ausmus said Friday morning before the pitchers and catchers' first official workout. "You know, I think he seemed to be in a good frame of mind, and last season's in the past. We're hoping he's the guy that the Tigers thought he is for ... really the last three or four years before I even arrived."

Rondon was dismissed from the team on Sept. 22, with Ausmus saying then only that it was for the reliever's "effort level."

There was speculation at the time that Rondon's velocity had dropped because he was dialing it back intentionally.

He went 1-0 with five saves and four blown saves in 65 games last season, compiling a 5.81 ERA with 36 strikeouts over 59⅔ innings.

Said veteran catcher Alex Avila in September of Rondon's dismissal: "You put out your best effort every day, no matter the situation."

Rondon, when asked Friday whether he was embarrassed by the team's decision to discipline him, conceded that "it was difficult, but it's a new year and I'm ready to go."

Ausmus said he wouldn't be against Rondon addressing his teammates this spring to apologize.

"You know, it certainly wouldn't hurt," Ausmus said. "Really, I'm gonna work under the assumption that the offseason was good for Bruce Rondon, and he's gonna come back and slide right back in as a Detroit Tiger -- and hopefully pitch well."

Rondon said Friday he's recovering from a mosquito-borne illness contracted while playing winter ball in Venezuela and that he's about a month behind schedule. He threw a bullpen session Friday and said he still feels as though he needs to throw at least two more before he feels completely healthy.

He enters camp with stiff competition in the bullpen, as the team acquired closer Francisco Rodriguez and setup man Justin Wilson via trade, as well as signing Mark Lowe in free agency. The club also has incumbents Blaine Hardy, Alex Wilson and Drew VerHagen competing for spots, though Rondon is not likely to be used in long relief situations like the latter three.

"I don't know if I'd push Bruce past, much past one inning, quite frankly," Ausmus said. "But we have discussed a potential issue with having so many short-innings guys, that you need a long guy now. ... But I don't think Bruce is a guy we would do that with."