MESA, Ariz. — Pedro Strop walked into work Wednesday morning without a limp and with his trademark smile intact.
“It’s not a long deal. I just felt a little tightness in there,” said the Cubs reliever, who suffered a “mild” hamstring strain on his final pitch Saturday against the Angels. “Right now it’s just about preventing a major injury.
“I think I’ll be ready for Day 1, 100 percent.”
That’s especially significant for a team looking to fill the ninth inning with a mix of backups for at least the first month of the season as Brandon Morrow continues working on his return from offseason elbow surgery.
Strop, who had an MRI Monday, participated in a pre-workout stretch Wednesday and played catch.
The team is optimistic about his return to a bullpen mound by the end of the week.
But the season opens in two weeks, offering few games for Strop to pitch once he’s done with a brief rehab process.
“As of right now I don’t see any concern,” said Strop, who has pitched two innings this spring. “Knowing I can be able to pitch only three or four appearances in spring training [and be ready], because I’ve done it before, gives me even more confidence to chill out and make sure this isn’t an issue for the season.”
A calf strain last spring limited Strop to three innings. But he started the season on time and had his best ERA (2.26) in four seasons, eventually filling in for Morrow during the second half and earning 13 saves.
How sure is he about being ready on March 28? “I would say 99.9 percent as of right now. I feel good. Obviously there’s something in there. But it’s not going to keep me sidelined from Day 1.”
Chatwood can’t find the zone
The day after Tyler Chatwood had a poor start worthy of flashbacks to last year’s nightmare control problems, manager Joe Maddon found a silver lining.
“Yes, he was off,” Maddon said. “But also that was in a perverse way a good thing, to have him go through that moment. And how he’s got to come back his next time out and see how he reacts to that.”
Chatwood, who was removed from the rotation last season because of a franchise-record 8.2 walks per nine innings, pitched a 1-2-3 first inning Tuesday night against the Reds until the second inning unraveled into a seven-batter flurry of deep counts, walks and a throwing error on a bouncer back to the mound.
“I made the pitch to get out of the inning, and I messed the play up,” Chatwood said of the would-be double-play ball with the bases loaded.
He lobbed a throw over catcher Victor Caratini for an error. Two of the runners had reached on walks.
“You’re going to have outings like that,” Chatwood said. “You’ve got to grind through it and take advantage of the opportunity, and I didn’t.”
After the error, Chatwood gave up a single and a walk and was done.
“Even in the first it wasn’t as sharp as I’ve been,” he said. “It just felt rushed a little, like I was opening up a little bit. . . . Obviously, there were walks, but my misses were all close. I still feel really good. My stuff’s there. It’s just a matter of getting a little tweak.”