Cubs’ Marcus Stroman reaches 1,000-strikeout milestone

“I truly feel I’m getting better with age,” he said.

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Marcus Stroman

Cubs starting pitcher Marcus Stroman throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Sunday, April 23, 2023.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

After striking out six-time All-Star Freddie Freeman on a called third strike, Marcus Stroman took a moment to thank many of the 33,494 fans who applauded after he earned his 1,000th career strikeout.

Stroman also clapped with his glove before expressing what the milestone meant to him.

“Especially coming from a sinkerballer like me, I’m not someone who punches a lot of guys out, so it takes a few more innings to get there,” Stroman said Sunday after the Cubs’ 7-3 loss to the Dodgers. “Just a testament to the career and longevity I’ve had. I’m very thankful for everybody who has been a part of it, allowed me to go out there every five days and helped me mentally, physically and emotionally throughout the entire process.’’

Stroman thanked his family, the Blue Jays, Mets and Cubs for assisting in the milestone.

“I truly feel I’m getting better with age.”

Stroman also insisted he wasn’t trying to hit Mookie Betts on an high-and-tight 0-2 pitch in the first inning. Betts eventually struck out but gained revenge by hitting a two-run homer in his next at-bat.

“I love Mookie,” Stroman said. “I really think he’ll be a Hall of Famer. I love the human being he is off the field. He’s incredible for this game. I think he’s an incredible role model for the youth.

“I don’t have a bad thing to say about Mookie. He’s a friend of mine and will continue to be a friend. I love competing against him. It’s a chess game.

“He got me on a sinker in. We’re always playing games.”

Arm of Steele

Left-hander Justin Steele has pitched at least six innings in each of his first four starts and is pleased with his preparation toward his goal of 30-plus starts and 180 innings.

“All the stuff I did this offseason and doing now has given me confidence to do my job,” said Steele, who will face the Padres on Tuesday night.

Steele believes the focus in the work he devoted to this winter in Arizona has paid off so far.

“I started 24 games last year and knew I needed to put the work in for six to 10 more starts,” Steele said. “I went into the offseason with that in mind.”

Manager David Ross said he never looks at innings goals for pitchers but admits there are instances where “we might need a little extra” from the top of the rotation, especially if the bullpen is taxed.

Hendricks heating up

Ross confirmed that Kyle Hendricks will make his first minor-league rehab start toward the end of the week, most likely at a warm-weather site. Hendricks, who is recovering from a right shoulder strain, will throw a bullpen session Tuesday.

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