You may not have noticed, what with all the winning (and, well, the presence of Aroldis Chapman), but Hector Rondon hasn’t pitched in over a week.
The erstwhile Cubs closer’s last appearance came against the Marlins back on August 2, where he faced four batters in a scoreless inning of work.
Sometimes, relievers don’t get mixed in for a few days, because the rotation is doing well and/or the match-ups weren’t quite right, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here – not for eight days, not with Rondon.
Instead, Rondon’s been dealing with some triceps soreness that has kept him off the field for several days. No one seems to be particularly worried at this point, but it is something we should keep an eye on. Especially given Rondon’s injury history (most of which came before his time with the Cubs, though he did deal with back tightness earlier this year).
“I’ll play catch,” Rondon said after the Cubs 5-1 win over the Angels on Tuesday. “If I feel something, I prefer to take a couple days instead of getting hurt when I pitch.” Rondon is no stranger to injury, having undergone Tommy John Surgery in 2010 and fracturing his elbow in 2011, so his extreme caution is not unexpected. In fact, in the past, he’s mentioned his preference to miss a few days on purpose, rather than miss many days on accident. As a fan, I can really appreciate that line of thinking, and hope most Cubs subscribe to the theory.
But if you’re still freaking out, worry not.
“His triceps has come up a little bit sore, so I try to avoid him right now,” Joe Maddon said after last night’s game. “Nobody in the training room feels anything [is] seriously wrong by any means. It’s just being careful right now. That’s all.”
And while you might feel burned by history/past experiences, when someone says “nothing is wrong,” I suspect this might be the exception. Consider, Rondon has been absent from play for over a week, but the Cubs have avoided a trip to the disabled list. Think about that for a second. The Chicago Cubs have avoided opening a spot on the roster, despite Justin Grimm’s recent resurgence and current presence in Triple-A, AND Tommy La Stella’s absence from the organization as a whole. Had there been any indication (to this point) that Rondon needed a DL stint, the Cubs probably would have moved at the opportunity to rest Rondon and simultaneously open up a roster spot.
To this point.
According to Patrick Mooney, Rondon is scheduled to play catch today, before he and the trainers reassess his right arm. While it’s entirely possible everything turns up A-OK, the opposite is true, as well. If Rondon’s arm is still sore, you might expect the Cubs to place him on the 15-day disabled list. In fact, even if it’s just a little bit sore, requiring a few more days off, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a trip on the DL anyway. Given that a 15-day DL stint would be retroactive to August 3, Rondon would already be half-way through the minimum required stint.
Unfortunately – well, for Tommy La Stella – I’d definitely expect a reliever (almost certainly Justin Grimm) to take his place in that scenario. The Cubs pen stands at just seven relievers right now, and Grimm is a Major League caliber reliever staying fresh in Triple-A because of a roster crunch. In addition, replacing Rondon with La Stella would only solve that problem for about one week (or until Rondon is ready to return). If anything, for all we know, re-optioning La Stella after bringing him back could only exacerbate the problem. So, yeah, it would be a reliever like Grimm.
But hey! Maybe no one will need a trip to the disabled list and Rondon will be ready and able to pitch tonight. Even with Chapman in the fold (what a further relief his addition would be if Rondon really did need to miss an extended period of time), the Cubs will be itching to have him back. He has a 1.70 ERA, 51 strikeouts (32.9% K-rate) and just 5 walks (3.2% BB-rate) through 42.1 innings pitched this season. In fact, he’s looked better than ever:
Hector Rondon by the year:
2013: 1.76 K/BB
2014: 4.20 K/BB
2015: 4.60 K/BB
– 2016: 10.20 K/BB –
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) August 10, 2016
The sooner the Cubs can wield that weapon again, the better. We’ll update the story if any news on Rondon’s game of catch is released.