Cubs

Cubs aren’t overreacting to Hector Rondon’s performance in World Baseball Classic

Cubs aren’t overreacting to Hector Rondon’s performance in World Baseball Classic

MESA, Ariz. – This won’t be the mantra printed across Joe Maddon’s next line of T-shirts – or on any of the yoga gear sold in the pop-up shops directly outside the Cubs clubhouse here – but it summed up Hector Rondon’s performance with Team Venezuela: "F--- it, it is what it is." 

Overall, Rondon still appreciated the opportunity to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, even though he experienced a meltdown against Team USA and the Venezuelans didn’t advance to the semifinals at Dodger Stadium.

"Any time you go to represent your country and be there for those fans, it’s fun," Rondon said Sunday, returning to the Sloan Park complex with a positive attitude. "I know I had a bad outing that day. I enjoyed playing with those guys."

Rondon couldn’t protect a one-run, eighth-inning lead last week in San Diego, giving up home runs to Adam Jones and Eric Hosmer as the Americans rallied for a 4-2 win at Petco Park and eventually escaped the second round of the international showcase.

Rondon got five outs for Team Venezuela, giving up five runs on seven hits and two walks in two appearances combined.

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"Everything is working good, my arm, my velocity," Rondon said. "I just missed a couple pitches, and that’s it.

"Those hitters are really good and they know me. I don’t know that much about them, but now I know. I’m really happy. I know I didn’t have the success that I wanted there, but still in my heart and my mind, I’m really happy."
 
This will be magnified with Rondon after the Cubs traded for Aroldis Chapman and Wade Davis and Maddon bumped his ex-closer from the circle of trust during last year’s World Series run. 

The Cubs still believe Rondon is healthy and ready to contribute to what should be a lights-out bullpen.  

"He said he feels great, and that’s all I want to hear," Maddon said. "We’ll fine-tune the location of his pitches, because the other day he said he had great stuff. It was just in a bad spot, (and) he knows that, so he’s very accountable about the other night. He feels like he knows what he needs to do to fix it. I love that. I like the upbeat nature."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester had easily his worst outing of the year, allowing the Cardinals to score eight runs on seven hits, the veteran All-Star only managed three innings before Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen. 

The Cardinals would take game two of the series by the score of 18 to 5, and while none of the Cubs pitchers could silence the Cardinal bats, Lester didn't shy away from his poor outing. 

"You know, I don't want to chalk this up as bad days happen," said Lester. "I think mechanically this has kinda been coming." 

Lester knew he was struggling to hit his spots, and while his ERA was a sparkling 2.58 coming into this start, his peripheral stats had him pegged as a potential regression candidate in the second half of the season.

His 4.35 FIP and 3.30 walks per nine innings show a pitcher who is relying heavily on his defense to get outs, which isn't surprising for a 33-year-old veteran but the walks are a concern. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was aware Lester had been working on his mechanics, but even he was surprised that Lester's start went downhill so quickly. 

"I thought he had good stuff to start the game, hitting [92-93 mph] and I'm thinking this might be a good day," said Maddon. "But you could just see from the beginning he was off just a little bit." 

Over Lester's last four starts his ERA has been an uncharacteristic 4.57, issuing 10 walks over those four starts, and only making it past the 6th inning once. At this point of Lester's career, he knows the best way for him to get outs isn't through strikeouts but by inducing soft contact and avoiding walks. 

And while both his hard contact rate and walks have increased this season, Lester's experience and high baseball I.Q. has allowed him to navigate his way through sticky situations. 

"I've been getting outs," Lester said candidly. "I just feel like when I've had that strikeout or I have a guy set up for that pitch I haven't been able to execute it." 

And while this outing was one to forget, it's at least a positive sign that Lester is aware of his issues on the mound. The veteran knows how to get outs and he knows what he needs to do to be successful in the latter part of his career. He just needs to get back to executing those pitches. 

Just don't expect Lester to dive head first into the analytics on how to fix his issues, he'll stick to hard work and baseball common sense. 

"I'm not too concerned with the analytic B.S., I'm worried about my mechanical fix for my next start."