The perpetually upbeat Pedro Strop returned to the Cubs’ bullpen after a month on the injured list (hamstring) and was slotted right back into his interim closer role. And he worked a 1-2-3 ninth (all groundouts) in the Cubs’ 6-3 victory against the Rockies on Tuesday for his fifth save.
The only thing that seemed to make his smile sparkle more than it did at the idea of pitching again was the idea of free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel joining him in the Cubs’ bullpen.
“What else can you ask?” Strop said of bolstering a bullpen that has blown half its save attempts this season. Seven pitchers have at least one blown save.
Even with about $2 million recouped so far in unpaid salary during Ben Zobrist’s indefinite personal leave from the team, it’s doubtful the budget-conscious Cubs can compete with the strongest bidders for Kimbrel as his market reopens for business now that draft-pick compensation is no longer attached.
“It’s not a secret how good he is,” Strop said. “If he’s not the best, he’s one of the best in that role. We’d be glad to have him.”
For now, the Cubs will have to be glad to have Strop, who should help stabilize an inconsistent bullpen that struggled to mix-and-match the ninth without him.
Steve Cishek, Brad Brach, Brandon Kintzler and Carl Edwards Jr. — who “threw the ball as good as he has in a while [Monday],” said manager Joe Maddon — all can return to more dedicated setup roles.
“I don’t know what Joe plans, but I really don’t mind [any role],” Strop said. “I’m so excited to be back, and whatever situation he wants me to come in the game, I’ll be so happy to go.”
Strop said he’s “100 percent.”
Right-hander Dillon Maples was optioned back to Iowa to make room on the roster.
Don’t bet on it?
Maddon didn’t seem as enthused as many sports fans about the recent passage of a bill in the Illinois Legislature legalizing sports gambling.
“I’m surprised by all that, quite frankly, based on the history of gambling [in baseball],” -Maddon said of a legacy that includes the White Sox throwing the 1919 World Series, the consequent creation of the commissioner’s -office and the lifetime ban of hit king Pete Rose for gambling on baseball while manager of the Reds.
“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of scrutiny involved with it, whatever. It’s not my decision, but it just seems incongruent to what’s happened in the past.”
It took a matter of seconds Monday night for the Cubs’ second-round draft pick, Chase Strumpf, to offer a glimpse into why he was chosen so high.
The UCLA second baseman was batting against Loyola Marymount in an NCAA regional playoff clincher when the Cubs selected him, then hit a three-run homer to propel the Bruins to a 6-3 victory.
The Cubs added eight more picks to their draft class Tuesday, including Homewood-Flossmoor right-hander Tyler Schlaffer in the ninth round.
“Growing up a Cubs fan … this is a dream come true,” Schlaffer tweeted, “staying in my hometown.”
Seven of the Cubs’ first 10 picks have been pitchers as they head into Wednesday’s final day of the three-day draft.