Cubs

Cubs sticking with Hector Rondon as their closer

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Cubs sticking with Hector Rondon as their closer

PHOENIX – Hector Rondon spoiled Cubs fans with all those stress-free ninth innings.

The Cubs made a low-risk, long-term play with Rondon, grabbing the Rule 5 pick from the Cleveland Indians at the 2012 winter meetings and watching him gradually develop into a dominant closer last year – for a last-place team.

The Cubs have expectations now and the games actually matter, which shines a spotlight on all these bullpen issues.

“I feel the same pressure every time I come in to pitch,” Rondon said Saturday at Chase Field. “It doesn’t matter for me.”

[MORE CUBS: After feeling weight of contract, Jon Lester settling in with Cubs]

The night before, Rondon had blown his second save in a week during a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks that lasted 13 innings. Rondon might not be available until Sunday – and there could be points where manager Joe Maddon wants to reduce his workload – but otherwise the Cubs are sticking with their closer.

“I’m not going to run away from him,” Maddon said.

Trying to protect a two-run lead on Friday, Rondon regretted the location of two pitches with two outs in the 10th inning. Rondon got two strikes on A.J. Pollock, who lined a slider down the left-field line for a double. Paul Goldschmidt – a two-time All-Star and the National League’s MVP runner-up in 2013 – worked a 2-2 count before crushing a 97 mph fastball for the game-tying, two-run homer.

“He’s just flying open a little bit,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “When I see a pitcher like that, it’s hard to make a pitch down and away glove-side. Everything goes forward so quick and he doesn’t give it enough time for the arm to catch up.

“The release point is just up here and the ball just runs middle-middle in. It just stays middle, rather than staying on top of the ball and having some carry to it on the outside corner. It’s just something (he’s) got to work on. He’s got to get better at it.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Rondon – who’s given up six runs through nine innings in May – doesn’t believe his mechanics are out of alignment: “I felt really good – my arm, my body, my mind, too. I missed the location, that’s it.”

Rondon missed most of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery and subsequent problems with his right elbow. He took over the closer’s job last May and ran with it, converting 29 of 33 save chances and excelling after the All-Star break (0.62 ERA).

“I really don’t have any doubt in my mind that he’s going to be fine,” Montero said. “It’s just a little tweak here and there.”

Rondon started this season with six consecutive scoreless appearances, and has gone 9-for-12 in save opportunities. The Cubs think their closer will put it all together.

“There’s so many different things we could have done execution-wise, and we didn’t,” Maddon said. “That’s why this game is so interesting. If they were all robots that never made mistakes, it would be a very boring game.”

Cubs infielder Ryan Court had a special night in Iowa

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USA TODAY

Cubs infielder Ryan Court had a special night in Iowa

The farm system doesn't have the big names it once did, as the majority of the top prospects have graduated to the Major League roster, but that doesn't mean the minor league clubs aren't having fun. 

Take 29-year-old Ryan Court, a minor league infielder who has bounced around from Arizona and Boston's systems and found a home this year with the Cubs triple-A affiliate in Des Moines, IA. Court has had a solid season in Iowa, slashing .272/.347/.410 in 74 games, but might have had his finest game as I-Cub Friday night against the New Orleans Baby Cakes. 

Court came up in the 8th inning last night needing just a triple to hit for the cycle, but his club was on the verge of taking the lead in the after scoring three runs prior to his at-bat.

With Bote on 1st, the game tied at 8 runs apiece, Court placed a ball in front of the right fielder who overplayed the ball and allowed Bote to score from first and Court to scamper to third to complete the cycle. 

https://youtu.be/XUa6lIZEJOA

The I-Cubs would tack on another run to polish off a 5-run 8th inning and take home the win in a 10-8 victory over the Baby Cakes, and according to Des Moines Register's Tommy Birch, it was the first time in two decades an Iowa player has hit for the cycle. 

It's unlikely Ryan Court will make his way to the big leagues with the Cubs already carrying plenty of infielders, but for one night he played the hero and got his team the win, finishing the night 4-5 with 2 RBI, 4 runs scored and one massive smile on his face. 

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: