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updated: 8/25/2014 7:16 PM

Cubs' Rondon gaining attention with every save

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  • Cubs relief pitcher Hector Rondon celebrates with catcher John Baker after the Cubs defeated the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 on Friday.

      Cubs relief pitcher Hector Rondon celebrates with catcher John Baker after the Cubs defeated the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 on Friday.
    Associated Press

 
 

One of the more underreported stories on the Cubs this season has been Hector Rondon.

We're here to fix that.

With all the hype and hoopla surrounding the arrival of Javier Baez and the excitement over the eventual arrivals of Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell, Rondon is one of the equally nice stories about the Cubs.

During the weekend series against the Orioles, the 26-year-old Rondon recorded his 20th and 21st saves of the season. Not bad for a guy who did not begin the season as the closer or even as the No. 1 contender. And it's not bad for a guy whom the Cubs claimed in the Rule 5 draft after he suffered a pair of serious elbow injuries, one potentially devastating.

"Yeah, I'm really happy for getting 20 saves," Rondon said. "I've not experienced being in that position. I say thanks to the organization and to the manager giving me an opportunity."

The Cubs claimed Rondon from the Cleveland Indians organization in the December 2012 Rule 5 draft.

Unlike many Rule 5 picks, however, the Cubs did not have to "hide" Rondon on the major-league roster last year. Instead, he was thrown into the fray and was reasonably productive in an ever-changing Cubs bullpen.

The Cubs took a chance on Rondon even though he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010 and then suffered a broken elbow in 2011.

"When I had Tommy John, OK, I can play," he said. "But when I had the other one, the doctors said the chance to come back and play baseball was 20 percent. So that put a lot on my mind. But they did a really good job on my rehab."

Did he think his career was over when he broke the elbow?

"Yeah, I think a little in that moment, but now everything's fine," he said.

Last year the Cubs' closer situation transitioned from Carlos Marmol to Kyuji Fujikawa to stopgap veteran Kevin Gregg, who saved 33 games.

But Gregg made some critical comments about having to yield time to setup man Pedro Strop late in the season. Gregg apologized the same day, but his days as a Cub were done.

Before this season the Cubs went out yet again and signed a veteran closer: Jose Veras. That lasted until they cut Veras on June 3.

Strop, who has turned into a fine setup man, was the assumed successor to Gregg as closer. But new manager Rick Renteria never named a closer after Veras failed in that role. But Rondon took the job and didn't let go.

In addition to his 21 saves in 25 chances, he has a record of 3-4 with a 2.98 ERA and a solid WHIP of 1.17. He has issued 1 walk and struck out 18 in his last 21 innings.

"It's obviously a tremendous accomplishment, a young man who's been chipping away at that role," Renteria said. "He's had some hiccups along the way, obviously. He continues to develop his slider and his mix of pitches in order to get guys off his fastball because there was a point in time when guys were looking for his fastball and were doing some damage with him and not allowing him to get through that particular inning.

"He started to make some adjustments. It's a good story."

One of the key lessons to take away is that teams, especially rebuilding teams like the Cubs, don't have to waste money on veteran free-agent closers. They can spend a lot less developing a homegrown closer.

Big-screen dreams:

During one of the interminable rain delays on the just-concluded homestand, fans gathered in the concourse and near the tiny TVs in the stands to watch Chicago's wonderful team in the Little League World Series.

It's the second time this year it hit me that it would be so nice if Wrigley Field had a big screen -- a "Jumbotron," if you will.

The other time was before a Sunday game when Greg Maddux was giving his Hall of Fame speech.

How much better would it have been, and how great a communal experience would it have been for fans to watch and listen together on the big screen?

Instead, Maddux' speech, which took place before an afternoon game, wasn't available at all to the crowd at Wrigley Field. And fans had to crane their necks and squint their eyes to catch the Jackie Robinson West Little League team on the little TVs in the park.

Let's hope the Wrigley Field renovations get started and get done as soon as possible. Having been to renovated Fenway Park this year and in 2011, I can tell you the modernizations have done nothing to hurt the character of that park. Instead, they enhanced the experience.

It will be the same here once the Wrigley renovations are done.

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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