Rondon Proof Philosophy Not Working for Indians

By: T.J. Zuppe

Indians prospect pitcher Hector Rondon was flying high during the 2009 campaign. The right-hander was the pitcher of the year in the minor leagues for the Tribe, and was showing every bit of the promise the Indians believed he would.

Fast forward to the present, and things are not so smooth-sailing for the 22-year old right-handed starter.

On Thursday, the club announced the Rondon underwent successful Tommy John surgery on Wednesday. The surgery took place in Birmingham, Alabama, under the watchful eye of surgery professional, Dr. James Andrews. Dr. Andrews performed an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction on Rondon.

Indians Pitching Prospect Hector Rondon

Rondon had not pitched since May 12th, due to elbow soreness. Before being shut down, he was 1-3 with a 8.53 earned run average at Class-AAA Columbus this year. After realizing the worst, Rondon could not escape his fate under the knife with Dr. Andrews.

Normally, the utterance of the name Dr. Andrews serves as a death sentence to the pitchers that are referred his way. Teams shutter, and squirm at the mere thought of his name, and what he does so well.

Yet, here the Indians are, with yet another pitcher forced to hit the shelf, and hopefully bounce back on the mend.

Now granted, Tommy John surgery no longer means what it used to. Nowadays, more and more pitchers are using the surgery as an alternative to arm trouble, and the vast numbers of hurlers that have had it continues to grow.

But anytime a player goes under the knife, no matter how many times it has been successful, there is always risk. For a player as talented as Rondon, you would hope to never realize this risk.

The young pitcher is another in the long line of prospects, touted as future stars by the club, that will either have to wait on his dreams, or face them turning into a nightmare.

Another that comes to mind was former top pitching prospect Adam Miller, who at one time was expected to be the savior at the top of the rotation. Now, most fans have forgotten his name or his existence.

Rondon’s surgery is further proof that the club’s “wait and see” philosophy is just not working. Assuming a youngster will reach the big leagues at all is a farce, yet the team continues to rely on the youth of the minor leagues as an escape from criticism at the major league level.

Well waiting on players that you need, that have never thrown a pitch, or stepped onto a major league field is laughable, and continues to bite the club in the behind, time and time again. While other small market teams are also having to rely on prospects to compete, they certainly are not using it as a crutch.

The ones that have used it successfully as of late, like the Minnesota Twins or Tampa Bay Rays, look at the minor leagues as an element to winning, not the entire plan.

Prospects are prospects, and while they may have much potential and promise, they also are high-risk guys, because of the number of hurdles that need cleared before reaching the major league level. This includes being bit by the injury bug, or just not being as good as first anticipated.

The Indians need to start showing something other than the “wait and see” game plan. The fans are looking for a commitment to winning, and some sense of urgency. They are tired of the “be patient” song and dance. They feel they have been patient since 2002, and look at 2007 as an aberration, more than as the norm.

If the club continues to look at prospects as saviors, rather than an added bonus, the days of summer will continue to remain long in the city of Cleveland, and the crowds at Progressive Field will continue to dwindle into nothingness.

Knapp Has Good Outing:

Another prospect on the mend, right-hander Jason Knapp threw well in a start on Wednesday night against Bowling Green. Knapp threw five scoreless innings for Lake County, on the way to a 3-1 victory.

Knapp allowed only one hit, and struck out six for the Captains.

He has thrown nine innings at Lake County, and has only surrendered the one hit, not allowing anyone to cross the plate. He has struck out 13, to only two walks.  Between the Arizona League Indians and the Captains, Knapp is 1-2 with an earned run average of 0.84 in seven starts.

-@TJZuppe

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