TJ Recovery Takes Indians' Rondon To Venezuela





CLEVELAND—There was a time when Hector Rondon was the next up-and-coming pitching prospect in the Indians organization.

After Rondon moved up one step each year over his first four pro seasons, the Indians began to challenge Rondon, and he split the 2009 season between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. In a combined 146 frames, he issued just 29 walks to 137 strikeouts, standing out for his fastball command.

But the fast track Rondon had been riding came to a halt when his right arm began bothering him at Columbus in 2010. When he allowed at least two runs in each of his first seven games, it was obvious something was wrong, and he was shut down in mid-May. Two months later, he began a throwing program. But the soreness returned, and the last resort became Rondon's only option: Tommy John surgery in late August 2010.

Rondon's long road back from elbow reconstruction surgery included two games (spanning three innings) at the end of the year with short-season Mahoning Valley. Now he is continuing his work with Caracas in the Venezuelan League.

"After throwing only three innings in 2011, we're focused on getting Hector time back out on the mound this offseason in preparation for 2012," assistant farm director Carter Hawkins said. "He will be limited in the duration of his outings this winter, but we expect him to be back to full strength in spring training."

The big goal is getting Rondon's arm healthy enough to make it to spring training. From there, whether he'll continue on the path as a starter or be moved to the bullpen will become one topic of discussion.

"How he responds to his workload this offseason will help to determine his role moving forward," Hawkins said. "But we wouldn't rule out him having an impact on our team this year."

SMOKE SIGNALS

• The Indians re-signed 30-year-old catcher Luke Carlin to a minor league contract, with an invitation to major league spring training.

• The Tribe named Alan Zinter as hitting coordinator, replacing Bruce Fields, who took over as the major league hitting coach in June. Zinter had been a hitting coach at various levels in the Diamondbacks organization over the previous four seasons.