Cubs hope World Baseball Classic will be a boost for Hector Rondon

Cubs hope World Baseball Classic will be a boost for Hector Rondon

MESA, Ariz. – After being frozen out of the biggest moments in the World Series, maybe Hector Rondon will rediscover something during the World Baseball Classic.    

The Cubs gave Rondon the green light to leave camp after Tuesday's workout and join Team Venezuela in San Diego for the second round of the international showcase, another sign that the right-handed reliever has recovered from the triceps injury that left him at less than full strength last October. 

"It's going to be intense," Rondon said. "I'm excited, because I've never pitched for my country, and I feel like it's almost going to be the same adrenaline as the playoffs or the World Series."

Rondon never quite got back into rhythm after that second-half injury, which put him outside manager Joe Maddon's circle of trust and contributed to Aroldis Chapman throwing 97 pitches combined in Games 5, 6 and 7 against the Cleveland Indians. 

If Rondon can become the elite setup guy the Cubs envisioned when they made that blockbuster Chapman trade with the New York Yankees – and Pedro Strop, Koji Uehara and new closer Wade Davis stay healthy – then this could become a lights-out bullpen. 

"It's good for him," Maddon said. "Talking to him, he's really excited about representing his country, which I think is cool. Watching him throw, he's ready to go. He's in good shape.

"I actually think him getting into that competition right now is going to be a good thing for him. It's one of those win-win situations."

Rondon – who saved 77 games across the last three seasons as the Cubs blossomed from a last-place team into World Series champions – again said "I don't care" when asked about his role once he returns from the World Baseball Classic.   

"When Aroldis walked in the door last year, all of a sudden he was pushed into a different situation," Maddon said. "He was wonderful about it, a great team guy about it. But internally you got to feel something, and I thought he dealt with it really well. 

"Now you got Wade Davis walking in the door. Before we actually culminated that deal, I got a chance to talk with Ronnie on the phone. And, again, he was magnanimous.

"Everything was great. I'm sure there might be just a part of him that might have been injured by that a little bit. However, I anticipate he's going to be fine."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 49th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 49th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 49th homer of the season came with a runner on 1st and one out, when Oriel Hershiser served up a high fastball that Sammy belted 415 feet into the last few rows in left-center field. 

Sosa would later start the game-winning rally in the bottom of the ninth, scoring the game-tying run on a Henry Rodriguez single through the right side of the infield. Jose Hernandez would step in the next at-bat and walk it off with a base hit that scored Mark Grace, as Sammy and the Cubs bested the Giants 6-5. 

Fun Fact: A 33-year-old Barry Bonds would hit home run No. 25, finishing the season with 37 homers. He would finish the next season with 34 dingers but would string five consecutive seasons with at least 45 home runs, of course hitting a record 73 home runs in 2001. 

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu have to be kidding me (Sorry, couldn't resist). 

The Cubs were expecting Sunday's rehab start to be the beginning to an end of what has been an extremely disappointing 2018 season for their $126 million man Yu Darvish. Darvish was scheduled to start Sunday for the Cubs single-A affiliate in South Bend, IN, but after just one inning Darvish was checked on by the trainers and eventually pulled before the 2nd inning started. 

According to Steve Greenberg, Darvish asked for an MRI on Monday which likely closes the door on him returning to the Cubs in 2018.

The frustrating thing about Darvish's rehab is that in his two rehab starts, the 32-year-old pitcher has had excellent stuff, touching 95 mph in Sunday afternoon's game before being pulled. 

At this point in the season, it seems unlikely Darvish will be able to return to the Cubs rotation for the regular season. And it would be incredibly risky to roll with Darvish in the playoffs, who even when healthy hasn't shown he's deserving of a postseason roster spot. The Cubs do have options at starter in the minors like Duane Underwood or James Norwood, and despite his shortcomings, Tyler Chatwood is an option out of necessity now.  

Drew Smyly, who looked like a possibility as a late-season addition, is still not quite ready to come back and be an effective rotation piece at the moment. And with Mike Montgomery heading to the disabled list earlier this week, the Cubs were hopeful Darvish would be healthy by the time rosters expand in September. 

Luckily, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Hendricks have all looked stellar recently and hopefully can continue their success on the mound as the Cubs continue to fight past injuries to maintain their grasp on the NL Central. 

But Theo Epstein said himself last week that if Darvish didn't perform well during his rehab stint, that was essentially his 2018 season. Don't expect to see Darvish returning to the mound until 2019, Cubs fans.