Hector Rondon stepped aside last July when the Cubs brought in closer Aroldis Chapman, and the addition of veteran Koji Uehara is another sign that roles in the bullpen will be as fluid as they’ve ever been under manager Joe Maddon.
“We’ve got a lot of talent and are deep and will be ready for any situation that arises during the season,” Maddon said. “It’s a good thing.”
Understanding that Rondon might have taken the acquisition of Chapman personally, Maddon called Rondon shortly before the Cubs traded for Wade Davis on Dec. 7.
“(Rondon) was magnanimous, he was fine,” Maddon said. “But I’m sure there might be a part of him that might have been injured by that a little bit. However, I anticipate he’ll fit in within his new role well.”
Before leaving Tuesday for San Diego to join Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, Rondon didn’t seem worried about his role with the additions of Davis and Uehara.
“We have more experience, and that will be good for us,” Rondon said. “We don’t care what inning (we pitch). We only prepare to do our job and be healthy all year.”
Rondon will be used in numerous situations, from perhaps sharing eighth-inning duties with Uehara based on matchups to even closing games when Davis has worked on consecutive days.
“I’ve got an open mind to all this,” Maddon said.
Maddon already is looking at the possibilities for the first week of the season, when the Cubs will have two days off in the first five days.
“I don’t have answers yet, but the only thing I feel strong about is we should spread the work and keep everyone frisky,” Maddon said.
Uehara averaged 12.06 strikeouts per nine innings with the Red Sox last season. But he will turn 42 on April 3 and was twice placed on the 15-day disabled list last summer with right arm injuries.
Rondon struggled in non-save situations in September after returning from a strained right triceps, but he allowed only one of nine inherited baserunners to score in 2016.
Pedro Strop, 31, could emerge as the Cubs’ most versatile reliever if he can duplicate last season’s performance, when he ranked second among National League relievers with an 0.89 WHIP, fourth in opponents’ batting average at .163 and limited left-handed batters to a .143 batting average.
With the help of catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello, Justin Grimm hopes to rekindle the success he had in 2015, when he posted a 1.99 ERA in 62 appearances and limited left-handed batters to a .140 batting average.
“We’ve got some thoughts that are going to make me dominant against both sides,” said Grimm, who allowed 16 earned runs in 21 innings in May and June last year before putting together a 14-inning scoreless streak. “I know I have very good stuff.
“It’s finding that consistency and staying at that level. Every year I have two or three months where I’m as dominant as anybody, and you have that one month where it’s off and it’s been my kryptonite. So it’s just minimizing that and how to get through that.”