In the long term, the
place a pitcher most feels the difference between starting and relieving isn’t
in his arm. It’s in his wallet. With the exception of closers, starters make
far more money over the course of their careers.
That’s why Francisco Rondon’s
transition is so important. A reliever for almost his entire career, the
Yankees decided late in spring training that his stuff – a low-to-mid-90s
heater and a wicked slider – had a chance to play out of the rotation.
So, for the first time since 2009
with Staten Island, Rondon finds himself taking the ball every five days. His
first start, Sunday in Portland, went well enough. He allowed three earned runs
over five innings, struck out a half-dozen and, most important, walked just
“It’s a new position for him, a
new role for him,” manager Tony Franklin said. “Being young in this role,
knowing he’s young in this role, it’s going to take some time for him to make
some adjustments. He’s had one start, and it was pretty good. I think the
reason that he’s starting is that people in the organization feel he can be
More than anything, it’s going to
take time for Franklin, Tommy Phelps and the rest of the coaching staff to
figure out what they have in Rondon. His second look at the league will be one
of the better gauges. If the hitters in Double-A can time his fastball – which
will be a few ticks slower – and adjust to seeing more change-ups, then he may
not be long for the rotation.
The positive numbers are nice,
but the best indicators of his progress can’t be found in the box score. His
comfort with pitching at less than 100 percent – a concept foreign to most relievers
– and his willingness to incorporate his change-up will provide the most
“He’s got a very good arm,”
Franklin said. “He put himself on the map last year with his ability to throw
the ball and showed a pretty good change-up. He’s going to have to grow, and as
he grows and pitches we’ll find out more and find out where some of the flaws
are and where some of the plusses are.”
Catcher J.R. Murphy, who has seen
plenty of Rondon in his career and will see plenty more this year, was pleased
by how well he did in his first turn.
“I was surprised (by) how good he
did,” Murphy said. “I was real happy to see that. He has to learn how to not go
full-bore like he does out of the pen. Out of the pen he’s mid-90s. This time
he was low-90s. He was throwing the ball where he wanted to, throwing the
slider, which is his out pitch, and then he had a change-up working that day
too. If he has all three working, then he’s good.”
To be sure, there will be growing
pains. He will get hit, and hit hard. But if he can put those bumps behind him
and thrive in his new role, then his future will be that much brighter. Not to
mention more lucrative.
coordinator Gil Patterson was in attendance. … Richmond starter Taylor Rogers
was teammates for two seasons at Tulane with Thunder third baseman Rob Segedin.
… Similarly, Thunder reliever Dan Burawa and Richmond second baseman Joe Panik
overlapped for a season at St. John’s. … Infielder Kevin Mahoney was back in
town after missing the New Hampshire to witness the birth of his son. He was
not active for the game.