Cubs

Hector Rondon understands why Cubs would make big trade with Yankees

Hector Rondon understands why Cubs would make big trade with Yankees

Hector Rondon won’t take it personally if the Cubs raid the New York Yankees at the Aug. 1 trade deadline, strengthening their bullpen with Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller and cementing their status as World Series favorites. 

Rondon has perspective after a long journey, signing with the Cleveland Indians as a teenager out of Venezuela, becoming one of the brightest pitching prospects in that organization, coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and going from Rule 5 afterthought to elite closer for a first-place team. 

“If they bring in a Chapman or a Miller, if they put him in my spot, whatever, s--- happens,” Rondon said before getting the last two outs in Monday night’s 5-1 win over the New York Mets at Wrigley Field. “I can’t control that. The most important thing for me is to come into the game, pitch my inning – whatever inning they put me in – and do my job.”

As the Cubs began a rematch of last year’s National League Championship Series, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer still had two more weeks to go shopping for a team that once seemed like it had everything, at least until a downturn before the All-Star break.  

The issue isn’t Rondon, who’s now 16-for-20 in save chances, putting up a 1.64 ERA and only four walks against 42 strikeouts in 33 innings. It’s trying to shorten games for a slumping rotation, reacting to a weak market for starting pitchers and giving manager Joe Maddon another late-inning weapon. 

“If we get one of those guys, I’m fine,” Rondon said. “It’s better for us. If not, I think we have a really good group in the bullpen. I know it’s a long season, and sometimes we struggle, but most of the time this year, we’ve been good.”

Rondon will also welcome Joe Nathan’s presence, viewing the addition of a six-time All-Star closer the same way he processed the Rafael Soriano and Fernando Rodney deals last season.  

“I’ve tried to learn as much as I can,” Rondon said. “Especially Nathan, he’s got (300)-something saves. Any information he can give to me – or anything we can talk about – I (will) try to learn as fast as I can. They’ve been through tough situations.”

Nathan made back-to-back appearances with Triple-A Iowa over the weekend, a significant checkpoint in his recovery from a second Tommy John procedure on his right elbow.

“All I know is that he’s getting closer,” Maddon said. “I also know that from his perspective he’s willing to do anything for us.”

Maddon said Nathan – who’s 41 and hasn’t thrown a pitch in The Show since April 2015 – “definitely” wouldn’t start out as a ninth-inning option for the Cubs. 

“But you would definitely feel good about his experience,” Maddon said. “He’s a veteran. He knows what he’s doing out there. (We’d be) trying to find out where he’s at on the major-league stage.”

Upgrading the bullpen is an obvious move, but those first impressions could ultimately influence just how desperate the Cubs might feel at the trade deadline. 

“If we have the answers in-house, then it makes it a lot easier,” Maddon said. “It’s important to get a look, and it does help Theo and Jed regarding what they may be wanting to do as we get closer.”

The Yankees have been under .500 after the All-Star break for the first time since 1995 and considering their first sell-off in a generation. Miller – an All-Star reliever who’s signed through the 2018 season with a reasonable $9 million annual salary – makes sense for a New York franchise that refuses to do a total teardown. Chapman would be a rental player who comes with triple-digit velocity and the stain from the 30-game suspension he served this season under Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy.

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Rondon is 28 years old, under club control through the 2018 season and ready to do whatever the Cubs ask in a pennant race.

“He is one of the best out there, there’s no question,” Maddon said. “Rondon has taken it to another level here. When you give him the ball – and when you talk to him in tight moments on the mound – he is very much in the present tense right now.

“If things go a little bit awry, I’m not seeing it get too quick on him, and that’s what I really like. Now stuff-wise – outstanding – fastball velocity, the slider, he’s throwing somewhat of a changeup/split. He’s got all kinds of pitcher.

“Ronnie’s a closer that pitches. He’s just not out there throwing as hard as he can, and that’s really the beauty of him. Again, remember, this guy is still learning. He’s still young and he’s going to keep getting better. 

“We got to keep him well. I can’t abuse him, because he has pitch-ability beyond just being a guy that throws hard. And that’s where he’s going to separate himself in the years to come.”    

Cubs recall David Bote from Triple-A with Anthony Rizzo's back ailing

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USA TODAY

Cubs recall David Bote from Triple-A with Anthony Rizzo's back ailing

David Bote's minor league stint didn't last long.

After demoting the 26-year-old to Triple-A Iowa on Monday, the Cubs recalled Bote on Sunday. In a corresponding move, the team placed Derek Holland (left wrist contusion) on the 10-day injured list.

Bote's return comes on the heels of Anthony Rizzo exiting Saturday's game due to mid-back tightness. Rizzo has dealt with back issues at various points in his career, missing four games in May this season with a similar ailment. 

The Cubs activated Steve Cishek off the injured list Tuesday, with the reliever filling Bote's vacancy on the 25-man roster. Thus, the Cubs had been playing with 14 pitchers and 11 position players for much of this week. Had they not recalled Bote, they Cubs would've had to play Sunday's game with just Victor Caratini and Tony Kemp available off the bench.

A similar situation occurred Saturday, as Rizzo exited the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. To save the Cubs from running out of position players, reliever Kyle Ryan took his at-bat in the sixth inning. Although he drew a walk, Ryan was thrown out attempting to take third base on a pitch that got away from Nationals catcher Yan Gomes.

Holland was hit by a comebacker in Tuesday's game against the Giants. Him landing on the injured list leaves Ryan as the lone lefty in the Cubs bullpen. The former holds a 5.74 ERA this season in 43 overall games between the Cubs and Giants, though that number is a more respectable 4.66 in 12 appearances with the Cubs.

Bote is hitting .257/.352/.429 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 106 games (268 at-bats) this season. 

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Anthony Rizzo leaves Cubs game with injury

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USA TODAY

Anthony Rizzo leaves Cubs game with injury

In the midst of a second straight tough game against the Nationals, the Cubs were dealt another dose of bad news when Anthony Rizzo was forced out of the contest due to injury.

The first baseman was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fifth inning with what the team called mid-back tightness. The Cubs did not have an update on his status immediately following the 7-2 loss.

Rizzo had walked the previous inning and was stranded on third base when a full-count pitch to Ian Happ was called a strike:

Rizzo made an error in each of the first two innings of the game, throwing a ball into left field when second base wasn't being covered and then dropping a throw from Javy Baez to begin the second inning.

Rizzo has dealt with back issues throughout his career, including a stint where he missed four games in mid-May.

Jonathan Lucroy hit for Rizzo in the fifth inning and doubled home the Cubs' second run of the game. He stayed in to catch while Victor Cartaini moved from behind the plate to first base.

The Cubs were already operating with a short bench since they currently have a nine-man bullpen and they had already utilized Happ off the bench earlier in the game (he was later ejected after the controversial call).