Down in lovely Akron this year, Hector Rondon went a spiffy 7-5 with a 2.75 ERA. His WHIP was a beautiful and slim 1.056, he struck out 4.56 batters for every 1 he walked, averaged 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings, tossed his fastball in the low to mid 90's, and gave up only three homeruns in 72 innings pitched.
That bought Rondon a promotion to Columbus, where he made his debut last night. All he did was pitch six innings of no-hit baseball before being pulled. Eight strikeouts, two walks, 95 pitches, 65 for strikes.
"You're going to watch a great mound presence today," he said. "You're going to watch a 21-year-old guy that's going to go out there and he's going to pitch like he's 31. That's going to be the most impressive thing you see. Whether or not he gets the job done, you're going to see a guy that's got tremendous poise."
Rondon more than got the job done by pitching six no-hit innings in a 2-1 victory over the Indianapolis Indians. He did it by adding pinpoint control to the aforementioned mound presence and poise. His first 11 pitches were strikes, and he continued to pound the zone until he reached his pitch count of 95.
"His fastball has so much life," Columbus catcher Damaso Espino said. "Today, his breaking pitch, his slider, was in the strike zone. After his fastball, it's hard to hit. He always has good stuff. When he's in the strike zone like he was today, he's fun to catch."
To overemphasize how important Rondon could be to the future of the Indians rotation is kind of impossible. He's the top pitching prospect in an organization that, with the exception of Cliff Lee, lacks anything except soft-tossing lefties and rebuilt righties at the major league level. With Cliff Lee's imminent departure (and by imminent, I mean either by next year's trading deadline, and if not then, for sure after next season), Carmona's struggles, and the fact none of the aforementioned soft-tossing lefties have separated themselves from the pack, a strong performance by Rondon in Columbus could be reassuring about about twelve different ways for Indians fans.
Yes, it's one piece. Yes, he's still only 21. Yes, this comes after just one start in AAA. But, he's been a high-ceiling guy and projected to be at least a middle of the rotation stronghold once he finally dons the Indians uniform. Read Tony Lastoria's prospect summary of Rondon and then tell me if this guy is anything but essential to the success of the club in the coming years.
It's nice to see him meeting, and at least for one night, outpacing expectations at such an age.