HOUSTON -- Cubs reliever Hector Rondon had a rough outing against the Astros, giving up four straight hits in the sixth inning before he was lifted on Thursday night. But manager Joe Maddon isn't concerned about the right-hander, who has struggled with his command this spring."He's just been off this
HOUSTON -- Cubs reliever Hector Rondon had a rough outing against the Astros, giving up four straight hits in the sixth inning before he was lifted on Thursday night. But manager Joe Maddon isn't concerned about the right-hander, who has struggled with his command this spring.
"He's just been off this camp," Maddon said Friday. "I look at it from the perspective that he's healthy, and you look at the [radar] gun readings and they're pretty normal."
Rondon was sidelined last year by a right triceps strain.
"I'd be much more concerned if he was hurting, and he's not," Maddon said. "He knows he has to fix it. It's not like he's making excuses.
"I always go back to the guy being healthy or not healthy. Sometimes, you just have to be patient. We'll see what happens when the games actually begin. Sometimes it's all veteran pitchers need, is to have the bell ring."
Kyle Schwarber caught Rondon on Thursday.
"It's there, his stuff is there," Schwarber said. "The good thing is it's Spring Training -- it's still Spring Training. We're about to roll into Game 1 [of the regular season], and then all the juices start flowing again and it's a whole new ballgame. I'm definitely not worried about the guy. He's got electric stuff."
• Maddon wouldn't reveal his Opening Night lineup for the Cubs' game on Sunday against the Cardinals, though the only real question is who will start in center field between Albert Almora Jr. and Jonathan Jay.
"Right now, Albert, to me, is the more prototypical center fielder," Maddon said. "Albert's not just going to play only against lefties, and Jay won't always get the action against righties. We'll look at the matchups and see the right times to play Albert. Albert's had a good camp. There's certain things Albert does against righties, certain kinds of righties."
So it won't be a pure platoon between the right-handed-hitting Almora and the lefty Jay in center for the Cubs.
The Cardinals will start right-hander Carlos Martinez on Sunday night.
"You can pencil in Almora if you like [for Opening Night]," Maddon said.
• In his first game back in a week after being sidelined because of back spasms, shortstop Addison Russell made a nice defensive play Thursday and also hit an RBI single to right and a two-run homer.
"He looked comfortable, and he saw the ball well and he wasn't jumpy," Maddon said. "I loved when he got to a 2-1 count and then the line drive to right-center [for the single in the second] -- that, to me, was a really good at-bat. Once I saw that, I thought, 'He's fine.'"
Russell said he felt good and didn't hesitate either on the field or at the plate because of his back.
"I think I'm where I need to be at for the season," Russell said.
The time off also helped sell the benefits of taking a day off now and then.
"I would like to play as much as I can -- I'd like to be on the field every single day if I could," Russell said. "But there's a bigger picture there in the long run. Save a couple days here and there, you might be that much better in the postseason. It's a little too early [to talk about the postseason] right now, but we'll take it day by day."
• Miguel Montero has been paired with Kyle Hendricks most of Spring Training, but Maddon said they will start the catcher depending on the opposing pitcher more than who the Cubs' starter is.
"It benefits [Montero] and us to put him out there with the right pitcher," Maddon said. "Willson [Contreras] has Jonathan Lester, but otherwise it's wide open."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.