Back at full strength, Hector Rondon won’t take things personally in Cubs bullpen

Back at full strength, Hector Rondon won’t take things personally in Cubs bullpen

MESA, Ariz. – Hector Rondon didn't take it personally when the Cubs acquired Aroldis Chapman last summer and handed his job to the superstar closer. Rondon also understood why his bosses traded for Wade Davis this winter and blocked out the ninth inning. 
Whatever thoughts raced through his mind in the playoffs – when manager Joe Maddon clearly had trust issues with specific relievers and didn't seem to push the bullpen buttons with quite the same confidence – Rondon will keep them to himself.
"Last year was hard for me," Rondon said, "because I was really good early. And after I got hurt, it took a long time to feel really good. But I don't want to be like those guys who talk behind the manager's (back) or anything like that. 
"If I say something, I have to say something to the manager. But he (decides) who pitches and I (accept that). They pay me to pitch."
As pitchers and catchers reported to the Sloan Park complex this week, Rondon loomed as an X-factor for the defending champs, a team rebuilt with an All-Star closer (Davis) and another guy who's already notched the final out in a World Series (Koji Uehara).

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Rondon said visa issues prevented him from leaving his wife in Colombia and attending Cubs Convention and visiting the White House with his teammates. He also said that he felt 100 percent again, good enough to pitch in the World Baseball Classic next month if Venezuela advances far enough in the showcase.
"Like I said last year, if they're here to help us to win, I'll take it," Rondon said. "I know Davis is a big-time closer and Uehara has thrown a lot of innings, too. Our bullpen right now is way better than it was before."
More than anything, Rondon's strained right triceps – which sidelined him for most of August and into early September – explains why he got bumped from Maddon's circle of trust late last season. Rondon had been so dominant early that FanGraphs ran a story on how he was breaking the Fielding Independent Pitching metric.
Most of all, Rondon has the perspective of a survivor, someone who recovered from Tommy John surgery and complications that wiped out almost three full seasons as a prospect in Cleveland's minor-league system. The Rule 5 guy evolved into a 30-save closer in 2015 and made it to the other side of the rebuild to earn a World Series ring.  
"You know me, I came from the bottom to right now," Rondon said. "I like to pitch in any situation."

Ozzie Guillen compared Sammy Sosa to Michael Jordan...and Michael Jackson

Ozzie Guillen compared Sammy Sosa to Michael Jordan...and Michael Jackson

Ozzie Guillen is no stranger to saying outlandish things.

So it's not surprising that Guillen would agree with Sosa when the former Cubs outfielder said he made the city of Chicago what it is today.

Thirteen months ago, Sosa gave a candid interview to Chuck Wasserstrom and compared himself to Jesus before saying: "When nobody knew who Chicago was, I put Chicago on the map."

Guillen echoed that sentiment on the latest White Sox Talk Podcast.

Maybe from where they sit, that's exactly what has occurred. Sosa and Michael Jordan certainly helped make the Cubs, Bulls and Chicago sports in general on the map internationally.

"People know who the Cubs were because Sammy put them back on the map," Guillen said. "... For the city of Chicago, when Sammy was Sammy — that race with [Mark] McGwire, then people noticed what Chicago was."

Ozzie said — from his perspective — when people hear about Chicago, they ask, "Oh, you know Sammy?" or "You know Michael?" referencing Michael Jordan.

Guillen also weighed in on Sosa's ever-changing appearance that has sparked A LOT of attention lately.

"But the color, I'm tired. I think he uses the same product Michael Jackson did," Guillen said. "It's funny because I work with him — we talked to him a lot for ESPN Deportes. When you're lying, that's when people don't get it.

"Listen, if you want to change your color, why not? You got the money, you got the time if that's what you want to be. But if you say, 'Well, I got too much color because of the sun when I was playing.' OK...You live in Miami, you grew up in the Dominican. To me, I just laugh."

Scouting the Cubs' competition: Will the Nationals finally win it all before Bryce Harper leaves?


Scouting the Cubs' competition: Will the Nationals finally win it all before Bryce Harper leaves?

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Washington Nationals

2017 record: 97-65, 1st place in NL East

Offseason additions: Miguel Montero, Matt Adams, Joaquin Benoit, Matt Reynolds, Jeremy Hellickson, Tommy Milone

Offseason departures: Adam Lind, Stephen Drew, Jose Lobaton, Jayson Werth, Matt Albers, Oliver Perez, Joe Blanton

X-factor: The health of their stars

Health is an X-factor for any team, but it carries more weight in D.C. than anywhere else in baseball.

Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Stephen Strasburg are three of the Nationals' best players and yet three guys that can't seem to stay healthy for a full season. Couple that group with leadoff hitter Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy coming off knee injuries, the health questions are running rampant in Washington.

Those are the Nationals' projected Top 4 hitters and No. 2 starter. If they all stay healthy, they'll put up some whopping numbers. But if history repeats, it will make the road quite a bit tougher despite a weak NL East.

Projected lineup

1. Adam Eaton - LF
2. Trea Turner - SS
3. Bryce Harper - RF
4. Anthony Rendon - 3B
5. Ryan Zimmerman - 1B
6. Howie Kendrick - 2B
7. Matt Wieters - C
8. Michael Taylor - CF

Projected rotation

1. Max Scherzer
2. Stephen Strasburg
3. Gio Gonzalez
4. Tanner Roark
5. A.J. Cole


When healthy, this may be the most talented roster in the NL. Harper, Rendon, Murphy and Turner could all wind up as serious contenders in the 2018 MVP race while Scherzer and Strasburg figure to garner some Cy Young votes once again.

The Nationals also have the advantage of a pretty rough division, at least on paper. Three teams are rebuilding and the Mets haven't made the playoffs in a couple years now. Getting to play 18+ games against all four of those teams is a godsend.

Which is good news for a Nationals fanbase that is absolutely starving for some actual postseason success. Wade Davis and the Cubs knocked Washington out last fall and 2018 represents what figures to be the final chance to win it all (or even win A playoff series) with Harper before he gets a $400 million deal elsewhere (like Chicago??).

The 2018 Nationals have no holes. If any of their starters falter, they have Hellickson available. If any of their position players struggle, they have depth in the form of Kendrick (once Murphy is healthy), Montero, Adams, Wilmer Difo and Brian Goodwin.

And the bullpen is very, very good thanks to a bunch of moves before the 2017 Trade Deadline and also have Benoit and Koda Glover expected to start the season on the DL.

The Nationals will be playing in October this year. But what they do in the postseason is a question that won't be answered for 6 months. 

Prediction: 1st in NL East, playoffs