With veteran options like Jose Veras, James Russell and to a lesser extent Pedro Strop struggling out of the bullpen for the Chicago Cubs this season, the opportunity is there for young arms to emerge. It is still early and this is certainly a small sample size, but Hector Rondon has been incredible out of the pen for the Cubs this season and seems ready to take on a more prominent role.
Even though he had limited success at the upper levels of the minors, the Cubs took a chance on Rondon’s upside as they selected him from the Cleveland Indians in the Rule 5 draft before the 2013 season. Any player who is taken in the Rule 5 draft must stay on that team’s 25-man roster throughout the season or he gets sent back to his former team.
It was tough for the Cubs to keep Rondon as he clearly was not ready for the big leagues at the start of last year. In 45 relief appearances, Rondon had a 4.77 ERA, a WHIP of 1.41 and walked 4.1 batters per nine innings. The Cubs hid Rondon at the end of the roster for a majority of the season, having him pitch mostly in blowout games. All that being said, Rondon really showed some promise late in the year, and it began to look like the Cubs may have found something in the 26-year-old RHP.
Rondon is a very hard thrower who has had problems with control in the past. While the results have rarely been there in his professional career, Rondon’s pure “stuff” and pitching talent has never been doubted. This season, it all appears to be coming together as Rondon has been the best pitcher in the Cubs’ bullpen by a wide margin. In 12.1 innings pitched this year, Rondon has only given up one run which gives him an impressive 0.73 ERA. His 14 strikeouts show that he has the stuff to be a legitimate back of the bullpen option, and his four walks make it seem that his control issues could become a thing of the past.
Rondon closed the door in impressive fashion for the Cubs on Sunday afternoon in their 4-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. He struck out Jonathan Lucroy, Aramis Ramirez and Khris Davis in order to end the game in the ninth inning.
While it was not a save situation, it was very interesting to see manager Rick Renteria go to Rondon in that spot. Is he the everyday closer? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure; Rondon has a bright future in the bullpen ahead of him.