By STEVE KRAH
But the 22-year-old Venezuelan is beginning to appreciate what pitching to contact can do for him.
Rondon, a fourth-year professional, went a season-best 6 2/3 innings and pushed his 2017 record to 10-3 Monday, July 17 in helping the South Bend Cubs best the visiting Cedar Rapids Kernels 2-1 in Midwest League play.
His 10 wins are twice as many as any other South Bend pitcher has amassed so far this season.
After issuing a leadoff walk and seeing Cedar Rapids score a first-inning run without a hit, Rondon went on to put up zeroes.
The lefty would yield four hits (two doubles) with three strikeouts and three walks while getting five groundouts and six flyouts. He benefitted from double plays in the second and third innings.
South Bend pitching coach Brian Lawrence chalked up Rondon’s successful outing to “attacking the hitters and not being predictable.”
Lawrence watched the southpaw command his fastball and mix in his other pitches and throwing different pitches and different ball-strike counts to keep the Kernels off-balance.
“He’s done that well for the last couple starts,” said Lawrence of a player who was purchased in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels in 2015 and was named the Northwest League Pitcher of the Year in 2016. “(Early in the season) he had some games where he was missing up in the zone and got hit around a little bit. It just took him a little bit of time to get his rhythm again. Now, it comes down to keeping the ball down and changing speeds.”
Getting ahead of hitters allows Rondon to effectively use his change-up.
Rondon, whose native language is Spanish, spoke through South Bend teammate Alberto Mineo after Monday’s start.
“He said he honestly loves striking out guys, but there are situations where you have to pitch to contact, if you want to go longer in the game and keep your pitch count low,” said Mineo. “Today was his longest game (of the season) and he was pitching to contact.”
Mineo, who singled in both South Bend runs Monday, related that Rondon liked how his curve ball was working. With more experience, he is gaining confidence in his ability to get hitters out.
Rondon also expressed his appreciation for the Cubs coaching staff to cheer up players during good days and bad days and how the South Bend fans support the team.
Manuel Rondon is a left-handed pitcher with the South Bend Cubs. (South Bend Cubs Photo)