Maddon not saying much about Lester, Rondon
Cubs manager Joe Maddon was asked about two key decisions Saturday. One was on the opening-night starting pitcher and the other was about the closer.
The Cubs seem to have two locks: Jon Lester to start April 5 against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field and Hector Rondon to work the ninth inning in save situations.
You can mark both of those down, even though there are some formalities Maddon would like to observe, especially with Lester.
"I would think that he has to be," Maddon said. "But you know what, I need to talk to him first. If you're going to do something like that, it would be appropriate for me to talk to Jon first before we make any kind of announcement. But I'm not going to sit here and be disingenuous. I really need to speak with him first."
The Cubs signed Lester this off-season to be their ace, and with that goes the start on Opening Day.
As far as Rondon goes, he grew into the closer's role last year and wound up with 29 saves in 33 chances.
When asked, Maddon said: "I haven't had that conversation. He did close last year, didn't he?"
The Cubs this winter signed former Cardinals closer Jason Motte, but he figures to work in various relief roles. Pedro Strop settled into a setup role last season, as did hard-throwing right-hander Neil Ramirez.
"I like that role," Rondon said of closiing. "Every reliever wants to close games. For me, it's no big deal. Give me a chance to pitch, whatever, second inning, third inning, last inning. It doesn't matter for me. The only thing that matters to me is put me in the game. I know that I did really a good job last year."
Second baseman-shortstop Javier Baez is in camp looking slim and trim. The Cubs' top pick in 2011 hit 9 homers in 52 games after coming up last Aug. 5, but he also struck out 95 times in 213 at-bats.
"I know the fans and whoever might be expecting a lot real quickly," Joe Maddon said. "I'm just wanting Javy to come out and try to get better every day and try to stay in the present tense and work on certain things. That's how I do this.
"With a guy like him, patience will be the word and also encouragement, trying to transmit confidence to him."
Baez seems to have a handle on his situation. Baez hit 76 home runs in 319 minor-league games, but he has struggled at the beginning of each move up the professional ladder.
"I'm just working on my strikeouts and my swing," he said. "I think we're almost ready when the first game comes to do what I usually do."