By Ashley Dunkak
@AshleyDunkak

CBS DETROIT – As the Detroit Tigers start their series against the Houston Astros, reliever Bruce Rondon starts another phase of the process of returning to action for Detroit. Rondon, who has been on the disabled list all season, has a rehab appearance Thursday with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens.

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Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said eventually Rondon will need to pitch on back-to-back days; but for now, Rondon will throw 20 to 25 pitches in his first rehab stint and then have another one Sunday.

“Right now we just want him to get an inning under his belt and pitch,” Ausmus said. “We’re not really concerned about how many sliders or fastballs he throws.

“I don’t want to rush him,” Ausmus added. “At this point, a couple extra days or rehab or a couple extra outings on rehab will probably benefit him more than hurt him. I’m not overly concerned about his results right now. It’s more about him getting through these innings.”

Rondon has been on the disabled list since the beginning of the season with bicipital tendinitis.

Wilson stepping up

Alex Wilson is one of the relievers who has stepped up in the absence of Rondon and Joe Nathan, who was lost for the season when he tore an ACL and flexor tendon.

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In 16 innings for Detroit this season, Wilson has an ERA of 1.69. Ausmus spoke highly of what Wilson has done so far.

“We can use him almost anywhere because he can go multiple innings,” Ausmus said. “I’m not afraid to put him in a tight situation late if I need to get a couple outs against righties. There’s also been times we’ve called on him to pick up some innings when the starter has trouble going deeper into the game.”

Ausmus said Wilson had struggled some in spring training but has been solid for the Tigers for most of the season.

“I think mentally he’s more comfortable,” Ausmus said. “There’s always that – a little bit of angst when you come to a new team and you pitch at the big-league level for the first time. He gave up that home run his first outing, but since then he’s settled in nicely.

“In spring training he kind of struggled a little bit,” Ausmus added. “He was flying off the ball, he had trouble with his command, leaving balls over the middle or yanking them out of the zone. But since the time we sent him down near the start of the season, in Toledo, he’s done an outstanding job, and that has translated to Detroit.”

Nathan staying close with team

Nathan, who has undergone Tommy John surgery and has a long rehab ahead, will be around the team even though he can no longer contribute on the field.

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“The schedule’s up to him,” Ausmus said. “I indicated I’d like to have him around when we’re in town. I understand why he wouldn’t want to go on the road, necessarily, and he said that he would like to be around for the most part when we’re in town, so that’s kind of the schedule. There’s nothing etched in stone. He doesn’t punch the clock when he gets here.”