Cubs

Cubs getting Hector Rondon ready for closing time

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Cubs getting Hector Rondon ready for closing time

MESA, Ariz. — Hector Rondon earned the benefit of the doubt, the luxury of not having to go full throttle every time in spring training. The Cubs watched him evolve from that Rule 5 guy on a 96-loss team to the closer for a World Series favorite.

So there wouldn’t be an overreaction to some bad Cactus League numbers, as much as Cubs fans and the Chicago media remember what happened with Carlos Marmol and Jose Veras and how those ex-closers lost control in Arizona and never seemed to get it back.

Rondon needed only seven pitches to get through the seventh inning during Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Kansas Royals at Sloan Park, getting Drew Butera to pop out in foul territory and striking out Tony Cruz and Terrance Gore to lower his ERA to 17.36.

[MORE: Why Cubs bet $155 million on Jon Lester's left elbow]

Rondon watched the video from his rough outing against the Royals last week and determined he wasn’t tipping his pitches. But in his last three appearances, he had given up nine runs on 13 hits.

“I’m not going to make an excuse for him,” Maddon said, beginning an explanation that sort of sounded like an excuse. “The biggest thing is the ninth inning in Surprise (or) Hohokam. This guy is used to an adrenaline rush. From where I’m standing, I think the stuff looks really good. Probably not commanding it exactly where he wants it.

“As long as he tells me he’s healthy — and he is — and he feels good about himself, that’s all I’m concerned about. I really mean that.”

This time in Mesa, Rondon got a record crowd for a spring-training game (15,523). He doesn’t draw attention to himself because he doesn’t have the eccentric personality expected from closers. But he dominated last year, especially after Maddon gave him a midseason breather and moved him out of closing time.

“He did me a favor,” Rondon said. “Because in that moment, my arm didn’t feel good, my mind wasn’t right. But when he (did that), I took the moment to think about (my position on the team) and start working.

“He didn’t put me in the ninth inning with pressure. Just come into the game and pitch. That helped me a lot.”

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Rondon finished with 30 saves, eight holds, a 1.67 ERA and 15 walks against 69 strikeouts — the numbers that actually matter.

“Seriously, I don’t really feel like (the man),” Rondon said. “(But) I can relax a little bit more, working on little things I need to work on. That is a really big difference. Right now, I feel good and I’m really happy with the situation I’m in.”

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

The Giants' search for a successor to now-retired manager Bruce Bochy has led them to the North Side.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, the Giants are interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their own managerial opening. San Francisco's interest is intriguing, as Venable went to high school just outside San Francisco in nearby San Rafael. His father — Max Venable — played for the Giants from 1979-83. 

Venable also interviewed for the Cubs' manager job earlier this month, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the "organization in general." He is one of several internal candidates for the Cubs' job, along with bench coach Mark Loretta and front office assistant David Ross.

The Cubs also interviewed Joe Girardi and are set to meet with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

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Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

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USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

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