Jump to content



Recommended Posts


Cleveland Indians prospect Hector Rondon thriving for the Class AA Akron Aeros

Friday, May 01, 2009

Dennis Manoloff

Plain Dealer Reporter

The shame of the Hector Rondon story is that Henri Centeno will not be here to see how it ends.


Centeno was the Indians' Venezuelan scouting supervisor when he died in a car accident in January at 39.


Rondon, a right-handed pitcher and one of the Tribe's top prospects, is from Guatire, Venezuela. Centeno was a sec ond father to him. Nobody in the organization played a big ger role in getting Rondon from Venezuela in 2004 to Ak ron in 2009.


"I miss Henri a lot," Rondon said through interpreter Ruben Niebla, pitching coach of the Class AA Aeros. "I think about him often. It's been very difficult knowing he's not around."


Centeno offered endless hours of advice, encouragement and instruction. Several seconds worth serve as daily motivation for Rondon.


"He always told me, 'Don't treat this as a joke,' " Rondon said. "He told me: 'You have a gift. Get the most out of it.' "


By competing in the Eastern League at age 21, Rondon is doing right by Centeno. And Rondon is not just competing, he is thriving.


Rondon is 4-0 with a 1.17 ERA in four starts. He has given up 19 hits in 23 innings, walked four and struck out 22. His most recent start, Tuesday against Harrisburg, featured nine strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.


"If this kid stays healthy and puts in the time, he has a chance to be a good one," said a scout at Canal Park in early April. "He still has a ways to go in his development, but the natural ability is there."


The live arm was on display virtually from the moment Rondon stepped onto a ball field, although at a different position. Rondon played third base as an elementary-age youngster until his teammates and coaches convinced him to try pitching. The ball seemed to jump out of his hand, with minimal effort, and zip across the diamond.


His father, Hector, worked tirelessly with him on mechanics and repertoire. By age 15, Rondon had attracted the attention of, by his count, five major-league teams: Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland.


The Indians and local scout Stewart Ruiz prevailed because they were willing to deal with the youngster as is.


"It seemed like the other teams wanted me to throw harder than what I was at the time," Rondon said. "The Indians gave me an opportunity based on what I had."


The main reason Rondon did not light up the gun was that his frame would not allow it. Rondon was so thin, he could step into the shower and the water would miss him. He was nowhere near his current listing of 6-3, 180.


Ruiz envisioned Rondon getting taller and filling out enough to withstand the rigors of professional pitching. He turned Rondon over to Centeno, who immediately saw potential and went to work. After noticing significant improvement in a relatively short period, Centeno summoned Ross Atkins, then the director of Latin American operations.


"What stood out about Hector was his ability to absolutely do it with ease," said Atkins, now the Indians' farm director. "He had a fluid delivery, and he pitched with no fear of contact."


Rondon signed in August 2004. Niebla first saw him in spring training 2006.


"He was a wiry kid with long, loose limbs," Niebla said.


Rondon's fastball settled in the high-80s and touched 90 mph. His change-up and breaking pitch were average on a good day.


As pitching coach of the Class A Lake County Captains in 2007, Niebla had Rondon for his first full professional season. Rondon went 7-10 with a 4.37 ERA in 27 starts. He gave up 143 hits in 136 innings and struck out 113.


Last year, at advanced-Class A Kinston, N.C., Rondon went 11-6 with a 3.60 ERA in 27 starts. He gave up 130 hits in 145 innings and struck out 145.


As the ratios indicated, he had become bigger and stronger.


Now, with the Aeros, Rondon's fastball sits on 90-93 mph and touches 96 in cold weather.


And it's not just the velocity that has Rondon rocketing up the charts. The command of the fastball is much better -- when he misses up, it's usually with a purpose -- and the secondary stuff, including a slider, has improved exponentially.


"What's most impressive about Hector is how much he's matured in all phases the past few years," Niebla said. "You're talking about a very bright kid. He's able to make adjustments and make them quickly."


How much bigger and better can Rondon get?


No one knows for certain, but based on the progress to date, he should be fun to watch.





Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...