MESA, Ariz. -- Day One of the Rule 5-guy watch went well enough that Cubs manager Dale Sveum sounded Sunday like right-hander Hector Rondon could be of actual use to the Cubs during the season, without needing an extended DL stint or disappearing act in the shadows of the Cubs' bullpen to keep a longer-term place in the organization.
Rule 5 picks must remain on a team's 25-man big-league roster all season or be offered back to the original organization for half the drafting price.
Rondon, the Venezuela native once considered a top starting pitching prospect, missed much of the last two seasons because of Tommy John surgery and a subsequent setback with the elbow.
He has looked healthy in camp so far after a high-velocity winter-ball stint, and Sveum liked what he saw in Rondon's spring debut Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels, giving up only a two-out hit in a four-batter, scoreless inning of work.
``It was nice to see Rondon in action for the first time,'' said Sveum, who lauded his ability to fight back after falling behind in counts during Saturday's first glimpse. ``He threw about three or four cutters that were real quality. That's a pitch he's going to have to learn to use .And he got back in the count one time with a slider after throwing a scud slider. It was impressive. He showed a lot of poise out there.''
Rondon is far more mature and experience than last year's Rule 5 pick, Class A right-hander Lendy Castillo, who spent a large chunk of the season on the DL with a non-arm-related muscle pull. His only claim to fame last year was setting off a bench-clearing melee in Washington by hitting Nationals kid-star Bryce Harper with a pitch - a series of events that was laughable to guys in the Cubs' clubhouse who knew Castillo didn't have the command to pitch with the intent the Nationals assumed.
If Rondon has shown anything so far, it's that he's no Lendy Castillo.
And the "kid" who turns 26 on Tuesday might even have an edge in the battle for one of the last bullpen spots for more reasons than his Rule 5 status.
``He was way ahead [of Castillo] a long time ago, before the injuries he had,'' Sveum said. ``He's faced Triple-A hitters, he's been in big-league camp before. He's kind of a veteran-type minor-league player that has a good arm that we'd take a shot at.''