Chicago Cubs: The revival of closer Hector Rondon


Rondon has faced adversity before and just keeps pushing through it

Let’s face it, in this team’s history we’ve had some great closers for the Chicago Cubs–and then some others that weren’t so much. The likes of Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith and Randy Myers have saved games in the blue pinstripes. There’s also been the Terry Adams, Joe Borowski and Carlos Marmol days. In Marmol’s defense, he was once one of the best–but once it went bad it was bad. Hector Rondon‘s place among Cubs’ closers of the past wasn’t established yet, but he might be getting there. 

After being selected as a Rule 5 pick in 2013, the Cubs kept Rondon up and managed to keep him from taking a hit to his confidence on a team that just wasn’t very good. Last season he had his breakout year, going 5-2 with 29 saves and a 2.42 ERA. Entering this season it appeared he was the apparent closer, but Joe Maddon had other options if necessary. In mid-June, if necessary became necessary and Rondon was removed from the closer’s role.

His performances weren’t atrocious, but in that role everything is magnified. Rondon was blowing saves, and the Cubs believed they could compete for a shot at the playoffs. So he was demoted as Maddon went to a “closer by committee” of sorts. Jason Motte settled in for most of those opportunities, and Pedro Strop got a few as well. After brief success, the two began to scuffle, and the job was handed back to Rondon.

Here’s the crazy part. Even after a demotion, Rondon is actually BETTER than last year. Like a Phoenix, he rose from the ashes to anchor the backend of this Cubs’ bullpen.

He’s 5-2 this season with a 1.55 ERA and 24 saves in 28 opportunities. He’s matched his blown saves total but is only five behind last year’s total in saves. But if you look at his numbers even before Maddon removed him from the role, it gets even better.

From May 25 to September 8, Rondon has thrown 39 innings, allowed just two earned runs while converting 15 of 16 save chances while posting a 0.46 ERA. Add to that eight holds and 39 strikeouts to just nine walks.

“He’s come back bigger and better than ever,” manager Joe Maddon said.

As the Cubs continue their march towards the postseason, Maddon can hand the ball to Rondon and feel confident that he’s going to get those final three outs. The “Marmolcoaster” was dismantled and put away. There’s still a bit of excitement at times, such as when Rondon had to escape a bases-loaded jam against the Giants a few weeks ago. He managed to strike out the side after that to close it out.

Not too bad for a Rule 5 pick that wasn’t sure after Tommy John surgery he would ever pitch again.

Next: Cubs can control their destiny this week