Rondon's 20th 'a tremendous accomplishment'

CHICAGO – Lost in the shuffle of the Chicago Cubs' 4-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday was the 20th save from former Rule-5 pickup Hector Rondon.

While plenty of emphasis was placed on Cubs starter Jake Arrieta pitching against his old team, Friday was just another instance of Rondon’s strong season flying low under the radar.

“It’s obviously a tremendous accomplishment,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s a young man who is really chipping away at the role. He’s had some hiccups along the way, obviously, but he continues to develop his slider, his mix of pitches in order to get guys off his fastball because there was a point and time there where guys were just looking for his fastball and taking advantage of him and not allowing him to get through that particular inning.”

Rondon has blown four save opportunities this season, but he has converted his last six chances, a season-best run. He has walked just one batter with 17 strikeouts over his last 20 innings, a stretch that goes back to June 30.

Going back to Aug. 10, Rondon has pitched seven consecutive scoreless innings, and over his 50 1/3 innings this season he has just 13 walks with 53 strikeouts.

Just last year he was in survival mode after the Cubs picked him up from the Cleveland Indians as a Rule-5 selection. If the Cubs tried to send him down to the minor leagues, he would have to first be offered back to his former team. That didn’t happen, as Rondon posted a 4.77 ERA over 45 outings after having just 19 games of Triple-A experience.

“He’s made adjustments and it’s a good story,” Renteria said. “He’s been getting better. I think everybody is comfortable with coming into closing out the ballgame that they can do what they need to do to give us a chance to close out ballgames.”

By saying that everybody is comfortable with closing it’s a reminder that Renteria never did announce that Rondon officially has the closer job. He has simply been doing the best with it of late.

“I think you have some guys with very good arms that you can comfortable slot into those positions and it just kind of takes care of itself,” Renteria said. “You let it play itself out. They chip away, they earned their ability to have the comfort level that everyone has for them in that particular situation to play itself out. It has and they have fallen into roles.”

Renteria said he wouldn’t hesitate using Pedro Strop in the role and he would even consider Neil Ramirez, but Rondon has clearly stood head and shoulders above that group.

“I think right now the way it’s kind of developed they can all be used to be able to help us chip away at closing down the back end of the ballgame," Renteria said.