Some players when called up to the majors only get one chance to make a good impression-Hector Rondon took that chance and made a good impression. Jose Veras – who the Cubs signed as the closer last season – failed to do anything to hold his job as closer. With the talk of a “closer-by-committee” being thrown around within the organization, opportunity would be available for someone to step up and take the job. Pedro Strop had first crack at the job, but didn’t do anything to secure himself in the role.
Rondon would be given a chance to seize the opportunity. While he did well in his first attempt, he didn’t get the job at first. Rondon did pitch fairly well when called upon – he didn’t get his next save for nearly three weeks after his first. The problem Rondon had been opportunity. With a young team still deep into rebuilding mode, Rondon would have to make every opportunity count.
The first half of the season was a little bumpy. In the second half of the season Rondon was what the Cubs where exactly looking for as a closer. Rondon would record eighteen of his twenty-nine saves in the second half of the season – including fifteen consecutive saves. Rondon’s earned run average would also drop from a decent 3.93 all the way to a 2.42 average. An impressive second half more than earned Rondon his place as the Cubs new closer.
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Rondon has the make-up of what you’d look for in a typical closer. Rondon has a four seam fastball that has reached as high as 98 mph but his best pitch may be his cutter. While I’m not going to start throwing out comparisons to the great Mariano Rivera, Rondon’s cutter is very impressive. Rondon’s cutter averages at 92 mph. Rondon’s cutter may not get the strike-out rate like Rivera but it does do the job. Rondon does his job by throwing where the catcher wants it and he lets his defense do it’s job. Rondon is a hard throwing pitcher who gets ground outs.
Rondon uses his cutter especially well when he’s ahead in the count. Rondon is armed with a number of pitches in his arsenal to use. The pitch that impresses many experts is his change-up, but it is a pitch that isn’t used as frequently as you’d expect. The four seam fastball and his cutter are his best options and he isn’t afraid to use them.
With an even better team expected to enter the 2015 season, it is expected the Chicago Cubs will be even more consistent thus giving Rondon more opportunities and more consistency. Practice makes perfect and I expect Rondon to get plenty of practice. Will he be perfect? No, no one is – but I think Rondon is key to the Cubs success and the Cubs will be successful. I trust Rondon and I think it is safe to say that the Cubs organization does as well. With a handful of veteran closers available in free agency this year, the Cubs didn’t move on any of those players.
I think the Cubs have a very good bullpen and it all starts and ends with Rondon. Now the anchor of the bullpen, it is his time to shine and establish himself as one of the marquee closers in all of baseball. The talent is there, the help around him is there, the faith and trust from the management is there, the fans support is there, it’s all now just up to Rondon to go out there when called upon and do his job. Rondon just like this Cubs team is ready to show the baseball world he is ready to live up to the expectations.