Hector Rondon: The Cubs' closer continued a concerning pattern as he gave up seven hits and five runs, including an opposite-field home run, before being pulled with two outs in the eighth inning. The outing ballooned his spring ERA to 22.13. Here’s how his four outings have gone:
March 7: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R
March 10: 1 IP, 3 H, 1 R
March 13: 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R
Wednesday: 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 R
As you can see it’s progressively getting worse. Is there cause for concern? Only if the pattern continues. The Cubs had similar problems in the past with closers during the spring which carried over to the regular season. While there’s no definitive way to know if they will in Rondon’s case, a couple of good outings before breaking camp will help ease the pressure while undoubtedly providing him confidence. At this point there’s now a reason to closely watch his next outing.
John Lackey: He gave up six hits over five innings but didn’t walk anyone. He was fine with the performance, as he feels like it’s still early in the spring.
“I felt really good about it,” he said afterwards. “It’s a good test. Still trying to establish the fastball. It’s a really good fastball-hitting team so it was a good test. Not everything is there yet, but it’s a step forward.”
Lackey was the first starting pitcher to bat in a game, as manager Joe Maddon will use them more at the plate as the second half of the Cactus League gets going. Lackey went 0 for 2.
“I used to be a lot better at it,” Lackey stated. “A long time ago. That’s what happens when you’ve been in one league for 15 years.”
Playing time: Maddon says he’ll start playing his regulars more with about 10 days left in spring training. The basic plan calls for them to play 2 of every 3 games.
Walking wounded: Maddon claims there’s progress with several players who’ve been out with injuries. None are considered serious, though Tommy La Stella (calf), Shane Victorino (calf) and Matt Szczur (oblique) continue to miss games. The latter two are fighting for a roster spot.
Pitching update: After Jason Hammel's turn in the rotation on Thursday, Kyle Hendricks gets the start on Friday against the White Sox, Pierce Johnson goes Saturday night versus Cleveland and Jon Lester throws Sunday against the Royals. Jake Arrieta will take his turn in a “B” game in Mesa on Saturday morning.
Next Up: The Cubs host Arizona at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT) on Thursday with Hammel on the mound. The game can be seen on ESPN.