Cubs bullpen coach a fan of Chapman

Closer acquired in July impressing with pregame routine, results

Cubs bullpen coach a fan of Chapman

CINCINNATI -- If you watch closely, when Aroldis Chapman is done warming up, Cubs bullpen coach Lester Strode hands the reliever a bottle of water and a towel. Chapman takes a long drink, wipes himself off, then goes into the game to throw 100-mph fastballs.

"It's like he was here since Spring Training," Strode said on Sunday of the Cubs' closer, who joined the team in late July following a trade with the Yankees.

"His routine, his pregame routine -- he comes out and does his running and his throwing," Strode said. "The guy knows what he's doing. He knows how to prepare himself, and that's why you see the results that you do."

Chapman is 16-for-18 in save situations since joining the Cubs, with a 1.01 ERA. He made his final regular-season appearance on Saturday, striking out two of the five batters he faced. It was his first appearance as a visitor at Great American Ball Park, which was his home from 2010-15 when he pitched for the Reds.

Reds thank Chapman

Chapman has been throwing more sliders lately, but Strode said that's part of the plan.

"I think the third or fourth game, guys were sitting on the fastball," Strode said. "He recognized it and started throwing the slider more to make them have to respect that pitch as much as they do the fastball. I think it's improved his command."

Worth noting
Hector Rondon says he's healthy, but since the reliever came off the disabled list on Sept. 6, he's had a couple of rough outings. In nine games since he was activated, Rondon has given up eight earned runs over 7 1/3 innings on 13 hits (including two homers) and two walks. He's held the opponent scoreless in one of his past four outings.

On Saturday, Rondon gave up two runs on three hits and one walk over one inning against the Reds.

"I thought he had great stuff," manager Joe Maddon said. "I think it's a matter of location more than anything and possibly just the moment, just getting him into a more severe moment where he has to get this thing done. I thought he even threw some good sliders."

Rondon, who was on the DL because of tightness in his right triceps, admitted it took some time for him to be comfortable after being activated. Physically, he's fine, but he did admit to feeling some occasional soreness.

"Right now, it's more important for us to be healthy," Rondon said.

• The Reds honored veteran catcher David Ross with a video on Sunday. Ross, who is retiring whenever the Cubs' season ends, played for the Reds from 2006-08, and hit 29 home runs at Great American Ball Park, the most by any player whose primary position was catcher. In '06, he compiled the best offensive season of his career, batting .255 with career highs in doubles (15), home runs (21) and RBIs (55).

• The Cubs will send a No. 16 "Fernandez" jersey that they displayed in their dugout last Sunday in honor of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez to the pitcher's family. The players autographed the jersey.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. 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.