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."