MESA, Ariz. -- When Cubs manager Joe Maddon had his one-on-one meeting with Hector Rondon on Sunday, one of the first things he told the right-hander was how proud he was of how Rondon handled last season. Rondon lost his job as the closer briefly, but returned to the role and finished with 30 saves in 34 opportunities.
"He could've easily complained, cried, made it difficult for people but he didn't," Maddon said. "He took the adjustment the proper way, came back and was better than ever."
And Maddon has high expectations this season, telling Rondon he has "another level to achieve."
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"He's establishing himself as a legitimate closer right now," Maddon said. "I really anticipate to see better work from him this year."
Maddon fond of Phillips
Maddon was saddened to hear of the death of Tony Phillips, who passed away at the age of 56 because of a heart attack. The two were together in Anaheim when Maddon was on the Angels' coaching staff and worked with the outfielders. In December that year, Maddon said he was putting up Christmas lights at his home in Mesa when he got a phone call from Phillips, who he called "Anthony."
"He just wanted to call me and tell me thank you for working with him in the outfield and the fact that it made him feel comfortable on a daily basis," Maddon said. "I'd never had a player do that."
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Maddon remembered Phillips' infectious laugh, saying he was a "tough guy, kind of an edgy baseball player."
"A couple years ago, he came down to Tampa Bay, he wanted to make a comeback," Maddon said. "He was 50 years old but he wanted to be our leadoff hitter. He was a fantastic player and definitely under the radar in terms of how good he was."
• Could Kyle Schwarber be matched up with one pitcher this season to get him at least one day to catch? Maddon said the coaching staff has discussed that possibility. Miguel Montero is the regular catcher but David Ross will be paired with Jon Lester again.
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• Jake Arrieta threw on the side Sunday, and was appropriately introduced by Ross, who announced: "We got a Cy Young winner here."
• Cubs strength coach Tim Buss and his staff led the pitchers and catchers wearing tight, old-time football coach style shorts. It's a style Maddon started last spring on Sundays.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.