Chicago Cubs: Pedro Strop

So who's the Cubs' closer now?

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12
3:42
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
ST. LOUIS -- Alright, now that the Chicago Cubs have completed their annual pulling of their closer from his job, who should be next in line to save games?

Last year was a more obvious situation as Kyuji Fujikawa was signed as a late-inning guy and when Carlos Marmol lost the closer’s gig, Fujikawa was next in line -- until he got hurt. Then the Cubs had to bring Kevin Gregg back and he actually stabilized things for a while. Fast forward to this year, Gregg is gone, Fujikawa is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and Jose Veras has been banished like so many before him.

SportsNation

Who should be the Cubs' closer?

  •  
    13%
  •  
    45%
  •  
    35%
  •  
    2%
  •  
    5%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,550)

Who’s next?

There are three obvious in-house candidates, all right-handers:

  • Pedro Strop: 7G, 0-1, 4.76 ERA, 1-1 SV, 5.2 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 8 K’s
  • Justin Grimm: 7G, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 9 K’s
  • Hector Rondon: 6G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 9 K’s

    The favorite to take the job is Strop. Most observers thought he might be the closer as last season ended as he was being groomed for that role. But Strop has had some control issues and he’s already given up two home runs, not the kind of stuff that works in the ninth inning of close games.

    “One big key is the ability to throw strikes back there,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday morning. “We all feel better if the other team has to get hits to beat us and in the one-run save, the ability to get a walk and a bunt, it could (evaporate) in a hurry. So throwing strikes is going to be at a premium back there.”

    Strop’s 1.41 WHIP wouldn’t lend itself to being the guy, according to Hoyer’s description, but that’s in limited innings over the course of less than two weeks of the season. If Rick Renteria wants to go with who’s hot right now then Rondon is the guy. He hasn’t given up a run in 16 innings going back to last year when he really came on late in the season. He was a Rule 5 pick in 2013 and he didn’t disappoint the Cubs by being on the roster for the whole year as required by rules. After a crazy night, his 1-2-3 first career save Friday in the 11th inning stood out.

  • (Read full post)

    Cubs fall, reliever Cabrera rocked

    March, 25, 2014
    Mar 25
    6:43
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    MESA, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs fell to the Los Angeles Angels 8-4 in front of another Cactus League record crowd of 15,276.

    The Good: Junior Lake hit arguably the longest home run in new Cubs Park as he cleared the grass beyond the left-field fence where fans sit during the game. It was Lake’s fourth home run in his past two games as he’s come alive at the end of spring training. Extra work and fine-tuning have made the difference for Lake, who had struggled much of the spring. Prospect Dan Vogelbach had two hits while starting at first base, and backup catcher George Kottaras doubled off the wall late in the game.

    Relievers Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon both threw scoreless innings as Rondon was hitting 99 mph on the in-stadium radar gun.

    The Bad: Reliever Alberto Cabrera got rocked in the ninth inning trying to preserve a 4-2 Cubs lead. He gave up a home run, triple, double and single to the first four batters he faced. Cabrera was pitching well this spring to the point of probably making the team, but Tuesday was simply a bad day for the righty, who got only one hitter out before departing. His ERA rose from 1.00 to 5.79. Nothing he gave up was cheap.

    What’s Next: The Cubs will make the hour trip to Peoria, Ariz., to take on the San Diego Padres at 9 p.m. CST. Top pitching prospect CJ Edwards will make his Cactus League debut in the game.

    Countdown to Camp: The bullpen

    February, 6, 2014
    Feb 6
    10:00
    AM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    Pedro StropDilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesPedro Strop figures to be an important component of the Cubs' bullpen this season.
    With Chicago Cubs spring training set to begin Feb. 14 in Mesa, Ariz., we're taking an early look around the diamond.

    Major additions since Opening Day 2013: Pedro Strop, Blake Parker, Justin Grimm, Jose Veras, Wesley Wright

    Subtractions: Shawn Camp, Carlos Marmol, Kevin Gregg, Michael Bowden

    Holdovers: James Russell, Hector Rondon, Carlos Villanueva, Kyuji Fujikawa (injured)

    SportsNation

    Who should be the Cubs' closer out of spring training?

    •  
      53%
    •  
      47%

    Discuss (Total votes: 1,154)

    Analysis: Turnover was the norm for the Cubs bullpen in 2013 as it was the weak spot of the team from the opening days of the season. Giving Marmol the closer's job out of spring training was a mistake eventually fixed when the Cubs signed Gregg, but by that time the entire bullpen was suffering. Camp was ineffective after a heavy workload in 2012 and Fujikawa's Tommy John surgery combined with Marmol's struggles doomed the Cubs in the opening months.

    Slowly but surely the front office revamped the relief corps and heading into 2014 it looks to be a better group. It can't be much worse after blowing 26 saves and producing a 4.04 ERA. Strop showed he has a live arm and Rondon was quietly effective as was Parker when he got an opportunity. Russell may have struggled some because of overuse but his workload lightened up when the Cubs added another lefty in the bullpen late in the season. He should be better with help.

    Outlook: The Cubs admitted they didn't address the bullpen enough last offseason, hence the ensuing turnover. It should be a better and deeper group. Villanueva began last season as a starter but will be the veteran leader of the group in the pen as the Rondon, 25, and Strop, 28, will be called upon in more important innings as the season moves on. Veras is a decent if not overwhelming choice to close games while lefty Wright takes some pressure off of Russell.

    If Veras gets moved midseason, Strop will take over as the closer and has a chance to stick with the Cubs longer term. At some point the Cubs could count on righty Arodys Vizcaino to provide some help after two years of injuries. He's still considered a good prospect. Last year, the Cubs had just one left-hander in the bullpen, relied on Marmol too much and were either too young or injured to be effective. Some of those negatives have been eliminated so it's not a stretch to think the bullpen can do a better job this time around. It needs to.

    Samardzija, Wood file for arbitration

    January, 14, 2014
    Jan 14
    9:25
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood were among eight players who filed for salary arbitration Tuesday.

    Other Cubs to file were infielders Darwin Barney and Luis Valbuena, outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Nate Schierholtz and pitchers Pedro Strop and James Russell.

    Samardzija might be the most interesting case, as he has been the subject of trade rumors all offseason. There's been no indication a long-term deal is in the works, as both sides remain far apart. However, the likelihood of Samardzija actually going before an arbiter is still unlikely, as both the team and player insist there's a good working relationship between them. The expectation is that Samardzija will sign a one-year deal, which would still place him on the trade block by midseason. He made $2.64 million last season and will be due for a raise despite a rough second half in which his ERA balloon to 4.34.

    Wood is also in line for a raise in his first year of eligibility for arbitration after making $527,500 in 2013, just over the minimum salary. He vaulted near the top of the National League among starters after giving up only 163 hits in 200 innings pitched.

    Barney is also a first-time arbitration-eligible player, but his salary might not be easily computed considering his .208 batting average but Gold Glove status as a second baseman. He won the award in 2012 and was a finalist in 2013.

    Teams and players will exchange salary figures on Friday, and arbitration hearings are set to take place the first three weeks of February. At any time the sides can agree on a deal, otherwise an arbiter will choose one salary or the other and the player is then bound to that figure for one year. No Cubs player has gone to arbitration since the new front office took over after the 2011 season.

    Year in review: Best and worst of 2013

    December, 30, 2013
    12/30/13
    2:37
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    Travis WoodAP Photo/Al BehrmanTravis Wood threw 200 innings for the Cubs in 2013, posting a 3.11 ERA.
    CHICAGO -- As you might expect with a 66-96 team, there were as many positives off the field -- or in the minors -- as there were on the playing diamond for the Chicago Cubs in 2013.

    By far the starting staff was the brightest spot on the big-league team, but even they couldn’t do it alone as poor defense early and a year-long problem of getting on base contributed to the team’s woes.

    And finding the worst stories for a last-place team shouldn’t be hard right?

    But don’t forget, the Cubs' record during this rebuilding phase is by design. If they wanted to win a few more games they wouldn’t be trading veterans during the season. So the five worst stories for the Cubs in 2013 have little to do with actual games won or lost.

    BEST MOMENTS

    5. Donnie Baseball: No, infielder Donnie Murphy didn’t get the Cubs closer to the playoffs after being called up from the minors in early August, but his offensive performance over the final two months is worthy of mention. He hit 11 home runs and drove in 23 in just 149 at-bats. For comparison, shortstop Starlin Castro hit 10 home runs in 666 at-bats. Even more impressive was Murphy’s performance in clutch situations. In spots deemed “late in games and close,” Murphy hit .368 with three home runs and seven RBIs. That batting average was second on the team while the home runs were tied for first and the RBIs tied for second. And he produced those numbers in just 19 at-bats. His hot finish earned a contract for 2014.

    4. Feldman/Garza trades: We’ll have to wait a while to know if these are for-sure winners, but when the Cubs moved Scott Feldman and Matt Garza to the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers, respectively, in July, they got back three, younger dynamic arms. Jake Arrieta is already a back-of-the rotation guy -- just as Feldman was -- but his stuff screams the ability to be better. His devastating curveball can freeze hitters while his lone weakness is control. He showed flashes after coming over and says getting away from the Orioles and a fresh start with a new pitching coach is all he needs to flourish. Pedro Strop is a closer in the making, although he will probably start 2014 as the main set-up man. Feldman parlayed his season into a $30 million deal with the Houston Astros, but it’s the Cubs who could end up the big winners. As for Garza’s deal, the Cubs acquired righty CJ Edwards, who helped Single-A Daytona to a championship. He’s small of stature but can throw lights-out. The Cubs also acquired one-time hot prospect Mike Olt. The third baseman took a dip in 2013, but with injuries behind him, he might turn into a steal.

    [+] EnlargeJavier Baez
    AP Photo/Morry GashJavier Baez played well enough last season to earn a promotion to Triple-A Iowa next season.
    3. Javier Baez’ season: There were high expectations for the Cubs' No. 1 pick from 2011 and Baez not only met them, he exceeded them. Not many players at age 20 have had minor league seasons like Baez did. Gary Sheffield comes to mind who, ironically, is the player most observers compare Baez with. That’s because of his vicious swing, which produced 37 home runs and 111 RBIs between Single- and Double-A. He also stole 20 bases, while his plate discipline got better as the season wore on. He did commit 44 errors, but the Cubs don’t seem overly concerned. There’s still work to be done, but starting 2014 at Triple-A means he’s a couple of hot months away from being called up to the majors.

    2. Drafting Kris Bryant: Remember, this was no slam-dunk pick. At least not in the mind of the public. The Cubs had a myriad of hitters and pitchers to choose from picking No. 2 in this past June’s amateur draft and by all accounts -- so far -- they hit a home run. (No pun intended.) Bryant is big, strong and can crush the ball. He hit 31 home runs for the University of San Diego to lead the NCAA last season. Second place hit 21. That says it all. He won honors for top collegiate player, then went on to rip up minor league pitching in the final months of the 2013 season. To top off his year he won MVP of the Arizona Fall League where he hit another six home runs to lead all hitters. In handicapping young prospects he’s more of a “sure thing” then Baez, but both can be transformative players for a given team.

    1. Wood emerges: For a rebuilding team nothing is more important than advancement at the major league level by young players. During this phase the front office is always on the lookout for “core” players they can lock up. Lefty Travis Wood pitched his way into being one in 2013 with a masterful year. Despite lousy run support, he was the Cubs' most consistent and best starter from April to September. He ranked 12th in ERA (3.11) in the National League, pitching exactly 200 innings for the first time in his career. Opponents hit just .222 against him, sixth best in the NL. He worked both sides of the plate, up and down, and was nearly as good against righties (.226) as he was against lefties (.207). It was a breakout year which could put him in line for a long-term contract in the near future.

    WORST MOMENTS

    5. Kevin Gregg's mea culpa: Towards the end of a meaningless season in the standings, closer Kevin Gregg was forced to march up to the press box in order to clarify previous critical statements about losing his role to recently acquired Pedro Strop. The Cubs were miffed that Gregg overreacted to manager Dale Sveum telling him Strop would get a few chances to close games down the stretch. Team President Theo Epstein also marched up to the press box to explain things -- pointing out how the Cubs helped resurrect Gregg’s career -- and nearly released him on the spot. His near roll of the eyes summed up the situation: it was the last thing he needed at the end of a long year.

    4. Castro bats eighth: Tuesday, Aug. 20 may have finally sealed former manager Sveum’s fate. After moving Castro around in the order all season, the shortstop was dropped to eighth for the first time since his rookie year. And for the first time Castro voiced his displeasure. Sveum said he didn’t know how long he would leave Castro there, but by the next day he was batting lead-off again. At the time sources said it wasn’t Sveum’s call to move him back up. He stayed in the one-hole for the rest of the season -- and performed better -- and looking back, that kind of gap in communication may have been a contributing factor to Sveum’s ouster.

    3. Samardzija’s second half: If Jeff Samardzija had pitched the second half like he did the first half then maybe the Cubs wouldn’t have any doubts about giving him big money two years before free agency. His rising ERA in July (5.28), August (5.54) and September (5.58) contributed to an average season for him as a starter who threw 200 innings for the first time. Maybe it’s no coincidence his woes came as the team sold its veteran parts and fell way out of the race. Samardzija needs the adrenaline of a pennant race to pitch his best, but until that day comes a better showing in non-meaningful games will help prove he deserves big pay day.

    2. Castro's season: There’s plenty of blame to go around for a career worst season after back-to-back All-Star bids. His batting average dipped to .245 and his play in the field was just as curious as ever -- at least early in the season. A better final month-and-a-half on offense and defense gives hope for 2014, but did the Cubs mess with him too much to be fixed? The front office, Sveum and the coaches are all to blame along with Castro. A fresh start is needed for one of the Cubs mainstays.

    1. Wrigley (non) renovation: The Cubs like to call it “Restoration”. Whatever. It’s nothing until it actually starts. If it’s red tape that’s holding it up then the Cubs have gone through a lot of it and still no resolution has been found. Rooftop owners have dug in while the Cubs aren’t changing their stance either: they claim they need the renovations in order to bring in new revenue in order to compete. The rooftop owners have a contract for unimpeded views. Neither side looks good and so the whole story counts as one of the worst of the year.

    Veras just a small piece for Cubs

    December, 17, 2013
    12/17/13
    8:49
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    Jose Veras had a 3.02 ERA and 21 saves in 67 appearances for the Tigers and Astros last season.Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty ImagesJose Veras had a 3.02 ERA and 21 saves in 67 appearances for the Tigers and Astros last season.
    CHICAGO -- He may end up making the most money of all the relievers, but the addition of potential closer Jose Veras to the Chicago Cubs' bullpen is just one small move to improve on a part of the team that wasn't very good in 2013.

    Veras agreed to a deal Tuesday joining a group that includes Justin Grimm, Blake Parker, Hector Rondon, James Russell, Pedro Strop, Carlos Villanueva and newcomer Wesley Wright, among others. Prospect Arodys Vizcaino and Japanese pitcher Kuyji Fujikawa are rehabbing from injuries and are expected back in 2014 as well.

    As a whole, the bullpen looks that much better than at the beginning of last season when Carlos Marmol anchored the back end of a group that blew 26 saves and produced the third-worst ERA (4.04) in the National League. The turnover by midseason was astounding as only Rondon and Russell survived from start to finish.

    "That was one of our biggest regrets from last year," general manager Jed Hoyer said last week at the winter meetings. "We have spent a lot of time about the bullpen, thinking of ways to get better."

    At the same time, Hoyer was quick to point out the holdovers are better positioned to have success next year. The Cubs simply have more depth and now are "redundant" in several roles to withstand injury or ineffectiveness.

    (Read full post)

    Manager search over; Cubs need pitching

    November, 10, 2013
    11/10/13
    9:16
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    ORLANDO, Fla. -- As general managers gather for three days of meetings, the Chicago Cubs are quickly turning the page from their managerial search to their player search.

    "We’ve been doing all of our research and strategizing for the winter, trade possibilities and analyzing the free-agent market," president Theo Epstein said over the weekend in Chicago. "Coming up with some plans. That’s all been going on, but we haven’t been able to dedicate 100 percent of our attention to it, obviously, with the managerial search. So we’re re-immersing ourselves in that."

    The first order of business won’t have anything to do with other general managers as the Cubs need to hire a coaching staff. That will happen in the coming days and weeks, but, on a lateral level, so will player acquisition. Traditionally, the general manager’s meetings lay the groundwork for the winter meetings in December. The Cubs are looking for pitching.

    "We need to add some quality," Epstein said. "I think we’re in a little bit better position than we’ve been as far as quantity."

    They added three pitchers -- Corey Black, CJ Edwards and Ivan Pineyro -- at the Class-A level last season, and all three helped them to a championship, but that was at the lower levels and none of those players necessarily project to be an ace. The Cubs are probably still looking for a pitcher of the caliber of a World Series Game 1 starter. That’s a long-term view.

    In the short term, they need a bullpen -- especially a closer.

    "We have guys that could close, but I think that’s an opportunity for us where if you go to market with the closer’s role ready to bestow on somebody, that can help you sign a pretty good pitcher," Epstein said. "We are going to hit the market with a full closing opportunity to offer the right pitcher we acquire, either through free agency or trade and with the knowledge we have some options that are interesting in-house."

    In-house means Pedro Strop, acquired for Scott Feldman last season, and probably not Kevin Gregg.

    "We don’t have a full bullpen," Epstein said. "We could add some players with more established track record and some upside."

    Epstein added "one more rotation piece" as a need after Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta. Scott Baker will be given another look after his decent finish to the season after returning from Tommy John surgery, but Baker will look around as well.

    Epstein said the Cubs are still in acquisition mode for young players -- at least for one more season -- but that doesn’t mean he’ll take it easy this week.

    "We’re going to pursue trades for the very best players in the game," Epstein said.

    But only if they fit the Cubs' long-term plans, both economically and on the field.

    Cubs season review: Bullpen

    October, 4, 2013
    10/04/13
    11:30
    AM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    Jesse Rogers recaps the Cubs by position and looks at what changes might be in store for 2014.

    Pedro StropDilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesPedro Strop showed potential after coming to Chicago and could be the closer next season.
    Talk about an upside down aspect of the Cubs in 2013, the bullpen would qualify. Just two members from Opening Day -- James Russell and Hector Rondon -- made it through the season unscathed. Injuries and ineffectiveness were the norm but there were bright spots, especially after the first couple of months. Kevin Gregg solidified the ninth inning, at least for a while, and a few other names emerged with potential for next season and beyond.

    The good: Let's start with Gregg. No matter what you thought of him at season's close or his mouthing off about his role in the final weeks, Gregg was a savior in the middle months of the season. He was 12 for 12 in save chances to begin his second stint as a Cub and finished with 33 for the season. Not bad for a guy who was picked up off the scrap heap. His pinpoint control -- especially with his fastball -- was his signature. Juxtaposed against the first few weeks of Carlos Marmol and Kyuji Fujikawa, Gregg looked even better. Pedro Strop might be the heir apparent for that role as his arm was electric at times after coming over in a mid-season trade with Baltimore. Meanwhile, Rondon improved as the season went on and might be in line for a set-up role. Russell was just OK after a stellar 2012 but remained a mainstay through some tough times. Justin Grimm, Matt Guerrier and Blake Parker all had moments in the second half that could give them a leg up come 2014, if healthy.

    The bad: The Cubs went through relievers in 2013 like they've gone through managers over the years. Starting the season with Marmol as the closer was a big mistake. It didn't help when Fujikawa went down with a season-ending injury as the Cubs went on to blow 26 saves. Shawn Camp was predictably ineffective due to his workload the season before and Hisanori Takahashi failed as a second lefty in the pen. Michael Bowden, Kameron Loe, Brooks Raley, Alberto Cabrera and Eduardo Sanchez are among those with ERAs north of 4.30. Even though Rondon came on late he finished with an ERA of 4.77. If not for the expansion of rosters in September, the Cubs would have overused Russell as they had no other competent lefty in the bullpen all season. That's on the front office.

    Who's next: Going outside the organization for a reliever or two is a distinct possibility but there's a good chance the Cubs will also look from within to fill some roles. It's doubtful Gregg will be back which means Strop could be the man to close games with Fujikawa, if healthy, helping out. Rondon, Russell and Parker should have jobs, if none are moved, along with Carlos Villanueva, assuming he's not starting. Another left-hander could be essential as the appearances start to pile up for Russell. Raley or Zach Rosscup will have to show they are ready for prime time.

    2014 outlook: When you're in the cellar there's only one way to go: up. The Cubs' bullpen ranked 25th in baseball in ERA (4.04) in 2013 and blew those 26 saves, second worst in the National League. Better decisions out of spring training are needed with another veteran arm or two to solidify things. By year's end the 'pen wasn't bad so picking up where they left off won't be the worst thing. If Strop becomes a legitimate closer, 2014 might be deemed a success for that alone.

    Cubs put Braves' celebration on hold

    September, 21, 2013
    9/21/13
    8:03
    PM CT
    Levine By Bruce Levine
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    CHICAGO -- The best laid plans of pennant-bound teams must defer to certain detours along the way.

    The Atlanta Braves with a magic number of one, were unable to hold on to a late lead, losing 3-1 to the Cubs. First baseman Anthony Rizzo drove in the go-ahead run in Chicago's three-run eighth inning.

    "That is a great team and [Braves starter Kris] Medlen shut us down." Rizzo said. "To come back against a team that has a really good bullpen is impressive."

    Atlanta, with a comfortable lead in the National League East, is more concerned about earning home-field advantage than when it clinches. For the Cubs, it was all about playing the spoiler role.

    "That was nice to keep them [waiting] one more day," Cubs' manager Dale Sveum said. "It was nice not having to see [the clinching] in person."

    The Braves were held to one run and five hits by three Chicago pitchers. Travis Wood gave up the one run on an Evan Gattis RBI single in the fourth inning. The Cubs' top pitcher threw his 24th quality start getting a no-decision in his seven-plus innings of work.

    "I don't think any team looks forward to that happening," Wood said in reference to the Braves potentially clinching at Wrigley Field. "You know it is always exciting when someone does clinch. One day hopefully it will be us and we can move on from there."

    The Cubs also were able to envision their closer of the future. Pedro Strop was sensational in his first save opportunity. The powerful right-hander struck out the side in the ninth to put the Braves' championship celebration on hold.

    "He pitched efficiently, threw quality strikes, he had the whole gamut working," Sveum said. Usual closer Kevin Gregg had thrown 37 pitches on Friday. "It was nice to see him do it at home in front of a nice crowd. He did a great job."

    Strop, who was traded to the Cubs by the Orioles in early July, converted his first save since May 18, 2012 against Washington.

    Rapid Reaction: Cubs 3, Braves 1

    September, 21, 2013
    9/21/13
    5:59
    PM CT
    Levine By Bruce Levine
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive

    CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs scored three late runs to overtake the Atlanta Braves for a 3-1 victory Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

    How it happened: The Braves were on the cusp of winning the National League East division. Their magic number was one as RHP Kris Medlen went to the mound against the Cubs and LHP Travis Wood. The Cubs' pitcher was looking for a team-high 10th victory. Braves rookie Evan Gattis drove in the first run of the game with an RBI single, which scored Freddie Freeman in the fourth inning. Anthony Rizzo tied the game with a double in the eighth inning off reliever Scott Downs. Catcher Dioner Navarro’s clutch RBI single gave the Cubs the lead. A sacrifice RBI by Nate Schierholtz added the third run.

    What it means: The Braves' magic number remains at one. Pedro Strop recorded his first save as a Cub, striking out the side. The division championship is on hold for Atlanta. Manager Fredi Gonzalez awaits his second straight playoff appearance as the Braves skipper (the Braves were the NL wild card in 2012). No Cubs pitcher has won more than 10 games since Ryan Dempster picked up 15 wins in 2010. Wood has 24 quality starts in 2013. He allowed one run in seven-plus innings of work.

    Outside the box: Closer Kevin Gregg was accepted back in the good graces of management after blasting them for how his closer role was to be handled the last week of the season. President Theo Epstein forgave Gregg after he apologized late Friday evening … Minor league pitcher of the year Kyle Hendricks and player of the year Javier Baez were honored before Saturday's game. Baez was second in the minor leagues with 37 home runs combined between Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee … Baez will not play in the Arizona Fall League as he originally planned to do. The Cubs will bring him to Mesa, Ariz., for a few special instruction clinics in the fall and winter … Hendricks will finish his senior year at Dartmouth in the fall. He is an economics major … The Cubs have put together a special logo for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Wrigley field in 2014. A contest held by the organization received 1,200 submissions … Brandon Ort of New Bremen, Ohio, had the winning design.

    Up next: RHP Edwin Jackson (8-16, 4.75 ERA) opposes the Braves and RHP Julio Teheran (12-8, 3.14) in the series finale.

    Rapid Reaction: Cubs 2, Reds 0

    September, 9, 2013
    9/09/13
    9:20
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive


    CINCINNATI -- Here’s a quick look at the a Chicago Cubs’ 2-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday:

    How it happened: Ryan Sweeney and Luis Valbuena hit solo home runs in the second and third innings, respectively, and they held up as pitcher Travis Wood and two relievers shut down the red-hot Reds. Wood lasted seven innings, giving up six hits without walking anyone. He struck out six in yet another dominant performance, which lowered his ERA to 3.05. Bronson Arroyo was good for the opposition but couldn’t match Wood pitch-for-pitch as his two mistakes were the difference in the game. Pedro Strop pitched the eighth inning and Kevin Gregg the ninth to earn his 31st save.

    What it means: If there was any doubt -- and really there should not be -- about Wood’s status as the No. 1 pitcher this year, it was dispelled in one of his best games, just when his arm should or might be tiring. The Reds were coming off a sweep of the Dodgers, during which all they did was get timely hits. That was not the case on Monday against Wood, however.

    Stat of the night: Wood threw 100 pitches, 70 were for strikes. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that’s the eighth best strike percentage for a Cubs pitcher this season.

    Outside the box: Before the game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum indicated pitcher Scott Baker would get another turn on the mound after his five-inning shutout performance on Sunday. The Cubs pushed everyone back a day to accommodate Baker’s first start, but Sveum said the Cubs hadn’t determined how or when they would fit him in again, just that they would. … The Cubs’ Class-A affiliate in Daytona, Fla., took the Florida State League championship with a 4-0 win over Charlotte on Monday night. CJ Edwards, acquired from Texas in the Matt Garza trade, gave up just one hit in five innings in the clinching game.

    What’s next: Game 2 of the series with the Reds takes place Tuesday at 6:10 p.m. CT, when Edwin Jackson faces Tony Cingrani.

    Cubs bullpen keeps surprising

    August, 31, 2013
    8/31/13
    7:53
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    CHICAGO -- At the beginning of the season, the Chicago Cubs' bullpen was a mess causing upheaval throughout the season.

    Yes, the occasional blown game still occurs but just as the season is winding down, the relief corps might be coming together.

    At least the names have been the same since the trade deadline, and those same names might make the offseason task look a little easier. It was only a few months ago it looked the Cubs would need to find a whole new bullpen.

    “They’re all going to be in the mix,” manager Dale Sveum said after he used five relievers to secure a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday.

    Think about it. It wasn’t that long ago it looked like the front office would have to bring in a whole new group of pitchers. After all, only two relievers, Hector Rondon and James Russell, remain from Opening Day. Closing games has been a problem.

    “We’ve had a little trouble with that sometimes, but you get the matchups and do some things, and, obviously, you get to your setup guy and closer and see what happens,” Sveum said.

    On Saturday, it worked to perfection. And Sveum’s moves felt like the Cubs were in a pennant race. After Carlos Villanueva pitched 1⅓ innings in relief of Chris Rusin, Sveum went to three relievers to get three different batters. Then, Pedro Strop pitched the eighth while Kevin Gregg worked the ninth for his 28th save.

    “To put five guys out there and finish off the game, that’s what we’re hoping to do every time,” Gregg said. “What we got out there is working pretty well. I like the pieces that we have. They fit together good."

    At least on Saturday they did. Russell came in to face lefty Chase Utley. He popped out. Righty Blake Parker got his man -- Carlos Ruiz -- before Strop and Gregg finished things off. Maybe this is the crux of the bullpen for 2014.

    “You think about it, yeah,” Parker said of next season. “You still try to get out there and show you can pitch, and, hopefully, it can be good for next year or down the road.”

    Parker has come back from an injury to post a 2.13 ERA. Russell has struggled some but has probably been overused as the only lefty reliever, while Gregg has been a godsend since Carlos Marmol and Kyuji Fujikawa were ineffective and injured, respectively.

    Then there is Strop. Acquired from the Baltimore Orioles for Scott Feldman, he might have the brightest future.

    “I saw it in Baltimore, so I knew what we were in for,” Gregg said of his teammate. “Electric stuff. That’s a guy that’s real comfortable with what he’s doing.”

    His perfect eighth inning lowered his ERA to 2.22. The Cubs' bullpen was so good on Saturday, Gregg lamented the fact he thought he gave up the only hit over the final five innings. Villanueva gave up one, too, so neither was “perfect.” It’s a far cry from April and May when blown leads were the norm. Maybe the Cubs' front office will indeed have less work to do on its bullpen than first thought.

    No one could see that coming.

    Rapid Reaction: Cubs 4, Phillies 3

    August, 31, 2013
    8/31/13
    7:08
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday:

    How it happened: Starlin Castro hit his first home run in exactly a month to give the Cubs their first lead of the day in the sixth inning, and it would hold up as five relievers helped shut down the Phillies over the final five innings of the game. The Cubs trailed three times but fought back with single runs in the second, third and fifth innings before Castro’s winning homer. Cole Gillespie had a hit and sacrifice fly to drive in two runs, while Welington Castillo’s base knock in the third inning was one of three times the Cubs tied the game before taking the lead for good. Kevin Frandsen homered for the Phillies, who also got RBI hits from Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young. The teams played sloppy early, but the Cubs settled down as Carlos Villanueva, James Russell, Blake Parker, Pedro Strop and Kevin Gregg came on in relief of Chris Rusin to secure the win. Combined, they gave up two hits.

    What it means: Before the game, manager Dale Sveum was lamenting the fact the Cubs had blown so many leads this season -- especially at home.

    Maybe the bullpen heard his words, because it came up big.

    Sveum used four different pitchers to retire four consecutive batters in the seventh and eighth innings. The strategy worked, as Russell took care of lefty Chase Utley, and Sveum's right-handed relievers did the same to the right-handed Phillies. For one of the few times this season, the Cubs grinded out a home win.

    Outside the box: The Cubs will get some reinforcements as rosters expand on Sunday, but only a couple of players are sure things to be called up right now.

    Ryan Sweeney will be activated from the disabled list and Luis Valbuena shouldn’t be far behind him. Expect Brooks Raley to join Russell in the bullpen as another lefty option, but Sveum said the final call-ups haven’t been determined yet. Don’t expect an influx of players, as several from Triple-A Iowa are already here. Third baseman Mike Olt would be an interesting option, but he’s struggled for much of this season.

    What’s next: The rubber game of the series takes place on Sunday when Jake Arrieta (2-3, 5.91 ERA) takes on Kyle Kendrick (10-11, 4.40).

    Can Strop be the Cubs' future closer?

    August, 22, 2013
    8/22/13
    5:04
    PM CT
    Levine By Bruce Levine
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    Pedro StropDilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesPedro Strop has a 2.29 ERA in 20 games with the Cubs this season.
    CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs have had just moderate success in developing bullpen pieces for the future, but one bright spot has been the progress shown by setup man Pedro Strop.

    The 27-year-old reliever has a 2.29 ERA with seven holds in 20 games and has been a solid part of the team's restructured bullpen. Only James Russell and Hector Rondon have been in the bullpen since Opening Day. Three closers later, Kevin Gregg hammered down the back-end job with 25 saves in 29 opportunities.

    SportsNation

    Should Pedro Strop be the Cubs closer next season?

    •  
      77%
    •  
      23%

    Discuss (Total votes: 627)

    But Gregg will be a free agent after the season, posing the question whether Strop is ready to take over the closer role.

    "He has closer stuff," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "The other part is with young guys, can they handle those last three outs?"

    Strop had moderate success with the Orioles only to bottom out with some bad outings before getting traded with Jake Arrieta for Scott Feldman on July 2.

    "Early in the year with Baltimore things were not going the way I wanted them to," said Strop, who had a 7.25 ERA in 29 games with the Orioles. "It was my fault. I was not making good pitches or hitting my spots. Luckwise I was giving up a lot of crazy base hits. You know, broken-bat hits and flares. Because things were not going my way I kind of lost some confidence and began rushing my game. I started to change my mechanics and got really wild."

    Since coming to the Cubs, Strop has worked with pitching coach Chris Bosio and bullpen coach Lester Strode on regaining his tool set and belief in his ability.

    (Read full post)

    Trade for Arrieta, Strop could be classic

    August, 16, 2013
    8/16/13
    8:06
    PM CT
    Levine By Bruce Levine
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs’ July 2 trade of right-hander Scott Feldman to the Orioles for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop appeared to continue their path toward another year without a competitive team.

    But unlike in 2012, when the Cubs finished with the second-worst record in the National League after trading five veteran players before the deadline, this season’s trades have taken on a much different tone.

    In Arrieta and Strop the Cubs may have found the next staff ace and closer in one deal.

    (Read full post)

    SPONSORED HEADLINES

    TEAM LEADERS

    BA LEADER
    Anthony Rizzo
    BA HR RBI R
    .345 2 8 9
    OTHER LEADERS
    HRA. Rizzo 2
    RBIA. Rizzo 8
    RA. Rizzo 9
    OPSA. Rizzo .926
    WJ. Hammel 2
    ERAJ. Samardzija 1.29
    SOJ. Samardzija 22