"He's one of the best defenders I've seen at this level," GCL Red Sox manager George Lombard said. "He's got phenomenal hands and works really hard."
What is going through the shortstop's head moments before the crack of the bat?
"Anticipation. Always anticipate the play," Rondon stressed.
"That was our word and focus through Spring Training: anticipate, anticipation," Lombard added. "You see balls hit the [Green] Monster out there and he's already way out there knowing exactly how it's gonna come off the wall.
"Every play is like that – he's involved in it all because he anticipates the baseball so well.
"We want our guys to not just react, but to always anticipate the next play, the next pitch; anticipate and then react the way they know how."
The athletic-framed infielder made his Gulf Coast League debut on June 18, when the team faced the GCL Rays from neighboring Port Charlotte, Florida.
"Yes, I was so nervous [before my first start]. Sí, sí," Rondon recalled with a smile. "But after the first inning, first ground ball, first at-bat, everything just settled."
"He's just got this natural calm about himself out there," Lombard said. "He's a young guy, but nothing really fazes him. He doesn't get rattled.
"He feels and proves that he can make any play, no matter how improbable is looks in the stands."
"He's a young guy, so he brings that energy and life to the dugout. But he really doesn't remember the last ground ball or error made by anybody," the second-year manager claimed. "He's real cool and is just anticipating the next out to be made."
At the plate, Rondon is finding his swing, one at-bat at a time. He has tallied twelve extra-base hits and 14 runs scored for the Red Sox against GCL competition thus far this season. Rondon acknowledges his daily battles at the plate as learning tools of the game.
"At-bat to at-bat, I feel like I'm getting better at-bats in. My swing is definitely getting better," Rondon stated, "and every day you learn something new.
"Every day I feel like I'm getting better every play."
"[With] the new guys, we'll never change anything in their swing a ton, or the way they field a ball, the way they throw a ball. We just give them a little time to get acclimated," Lombard explained.
"Success builds confidence, so the more success they have the better off they are going to feel. That's even just in batting practice, doing things they want to do, taking ground balls, making them feel more comfortable on the field.
"Then the game becomes a reaction."
As hitting coach UL Washington preaches, player development is all about the reps. "It's more at-bats and repetition. When we get them here, they come in pretty raw at this level, and over the course of a year, two years, three years we see a really big difference.
"They have the ability and they learn more about how the game is played. It's just gonna take repetition."
"I'm just looking to make good contact and have good at-bats – that's the most important thing for my hitting," Rondon said.
"I always want to keep on working and stay with the same approach I've had because it's been successful for me so far. It doesn't matter if I had a bad day yesterday; it's a new day today."
GCL manager George Lombard can't speak highly enough of a guy the Red Sox players and coaches call "Rondo."
"As a player develops, he'll [learn] what throws he can make and what balls he can catch. And that's all experience, [learning] different situations, where to throw the ball, the mental side of the game.
"Between players like [shortstop Tzu-Wei] Lin, Rondon, [second baseman Denier] Lopez and [third baseman Nick] Moore, you don't usually see the defense that we've seen at the lower levels.
"He [Rondon] does something every game that impresses you."
While a youngster in the clubhouse, Cleulius Rondon is an apparent leader between the chalked lines. He couldn't be more grateful to be making diving stops deep in the hole and throwing runners out.
"I just want to see my family happy, proud of me. Thank God I'm here."
FORT MYERS, FL – The Red Sox defensive worries are dismissed whenever Cleuluis Rondon steps onto the field. Born in Maracay, Venezuela, Rondon has been a solid glove for the rookie league team in the middle infield this season. He holds a .261 batting average in 30 games, but the impact Rondon has made on the defensive side of the baseball speaks volumes for his game.
Rondon Anticipating Plays At Shortstop
Cleuluis Rondon has some work to do offensively, but defensively he has innate instincts.
GCL Red Sox Beat Writer
Rondon plays defense like a big leaguer
Jul 30, 2012