The Cubs already appear to be cautious with Hector Rondon, a Tommy John survivor who pitched only 10 innings combined during the 2011 and 2012 seasons before transforming himself from a Rule 5 guy into an elite closer.
Now the Cubs are also managing another issue that made Rondon a spectator for Jon Lester’s 2-1 complete-game victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.
“His back came up a little bit stiff right before the game,” manager Joe Maddon said during a postgame news conference. “I don’t know anything about tomorrow yet. But he was not available.”
A plus-129 run differential has given the Cubs chances to rest Rondon, who has gone 9-for-9 in save chances and put up a 1.04 ERA. He’s struck out almost 43 percent of the batters he’s faced this season, with only two walks through 17-plus innings.
Rondon said he’s dealt with this recently, but felt something once he finished his pregame workout.
“It just felt more tight today,” Rondon said. “I don’t want to go pitch like that, because I don’t want to miss like 10 days or 20 days. I want to miss like only one day.”
The Cubs (36-15) and Dodgers (28-26) will finish their four-game series on Thursday afternoon in Wrigleyville. It’s unclear whether the ninth inning will belong to Rondon, who understands the big picture after recovering from all those problems with his right elbow.
“I learned from what happened to me before,” Rondon said. “I know if I miss one day, two days, it’s no big deal for me. It’s more important for me to be healthy and help the team to win some games.”