The Chicago Cubs bullpen has been in flux for a while due to injuries. But fans finally got some good news with a clean outing from Pedro Strop on Monday.
When it was announced that Chicago Cubs right-hander Pedro Strop was dealing with a hamstring injury earlier in Spring Training, Cubs Twitter reacted completely rationally.
Yeah, right, just kidding. The bullpen has been an area of concern all spring, and it’s warranted. That concern only ramped up when the Cubs’ former backup and current primary closer seemed uncertain about whether he’d be ready for Opening Day.
Strop dealt with a similar injury in September last season after suffering a hamstring injury running to first. At the time, he was the primary closer, and while his absence down the stretch wasn’t the only factor that led to the Cubs’ collapse, it certainly didn’t help.
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With Brandon Morrow already confirmed to be unavailable for Opening Day, Strop’s potential absence just added salt to the wound. Who would be the closer? Who would be the setup man? When would Strop and Morrow return?
Relax, he’s back
But Cubs fans can now breathe a sigh of relief, for now at least. On Monday against the Boston Red Sox, Strop made his return to game action and had a perfect outing. He threw just one inning, but he retired all three batters he faced, striking out Andrew Benintendi and 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts and getting Rafael Devers to fly out.
According to Jesse Rogers of ESPN, Strop said after his outing that he “didn’t even think about his hamstring while out there,” and is ready for Thursday.
Strop has been a fairly durable reliever throughout his career. Unlike Morrow, who has been sidelined with nagging injuries for several years now, Strop seems like a more promising candidate to come back and stay back. Of course, nothing is certain, but at least for now, he looks ready to close out games for the Cubs until Morrow returns.
Big news for the bullpen
If Strop is truly back for good, that’s big news for the Cubs. He may be just one person, but his presence in the pen is invaluable.
Last season, he collected 13 saves after taking over the closer’s role from Morrow. He proved himself ready for the job. Since joining the Cubs via trade from the Baltimore Orioles in 2013, he’s really never had a down year.
So Strop back already makes things look a lot better. And if Morrow were to come back on schedule at the beginning of May, this bullpen could start to look like a dominant group. Morrow would be the closer, with Strop as the setup man, in addition to Carl Edwards Jr., Steve Cishek and new acquisition Brad Brach, among others.
A solid outing from Strop is some of the best news Cubs fans could have asked for right now. With him healthy, the Cubs’ bullpen looks much more ready to take on the upcoming season, with or without Morrow.