Astros reliever Hector Rondon pitches better

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Hector Rondon /

We had a Hector Rondon appearance out of the Astros bullpen!

There is only so much you can determine from spring training stats. Unfortunately, the Astros will need to make a decision for the temporary first baseman from spring trading stays. The battle is between J.D. Davis, A.J. Reed, and Tyler White. It’s too soon to declare a winner, but Davis could be the guy.

One player who was causing some concern from the coaching staff was Hector Rondon. After helping the Cubs win the World Series in 2016, the former closer struggled in 2017. The Cubs chose to non-tender his contract this offseason, granting him free agency. It’s similar to what the Astros did with Mike Fiers.

Rondon raises his ERA from 3.53 in 2016 to 4.24 in 2017. While his strikeouts per nine innings increased to 10.8, he doubled his walks per nine innings from 1.4 to 3.1 in 2017. The Cubs has Wade Davis as the closer, so Rondon did not get any saves. The Astros had to hope that a change of scenery would be good for Rondon.

Not a great start!

Spring camp got off to a rocky start for Rondon giving up four runs in 2/3 innings. Then the Astros shut Rondon down from games until he was ready. The team did not go out and sign any of the big name relievers, but Rondon and Joe Smith will help the team.

With Rondon’s hiatus, fans had to worry if there was something wrong with Rondon. Would he be ready for the start of the season? On this week’s CTH Podcast we also discussed who would replace him if he wasn’t ready. For what it’s worth, I thought it would be David Paulino. Who would guess the next day Rondon would come out and dominate?

A dominant Rondon?

As described by’s Oliver Macklin, it appeared that Rondon had control of both his fastball and slider. While Rondon was not facing the National’s best hitters, he struck out the side. It was a good sign that he is getting back on track for opening day. Could he struggle during his next appearance?

Maybe, but the Astros have to like the stuff he showed yesterday. According to Jerome Solomon, A.J. Hinch wants Rondon to mix in more sliders into his repertoire. Rondon has a fastball that averages 96.4 mph, and he throws his slider at 85.4 mph according to Fangraphs. He primarily uses his fastball, according to his career 65.2% rate.

Part of Justin Verlander’s success with the Astros was throwing more sliders. Brett Strom encourages pitchers to their breaking pitches more often. It seemed like last year, Rondon didn’t have a good feel for the fastball. He may have tried to throw it harder to compensate for lack of control, leading to the walks.

Next: Astros: Carlos Correa is hungry to be the AL MVP

Either way, Rondon will be a big part of this bullpen this year. Hinch doesn’t know what his role will be, but the situation will decide when he calls on Rondon. He will be under team control through 2019, so the team is banking on him rediscovering his success pre-2017. It’s almost time for baseball.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference***