Notes: Bryant's blast; Strop's return

March 21st, 2021

Cubs manager David Ross said he had a long conversation with on Friday. They discussed the way spring has been going for the star third baseman and focused on the fact that the real games begin on April 1.

"I talked to him at length," Ross said on Saturday morning. "I think he's happy with the way he's seeing the ball. He is taking his walks. I think he's looking to drive the ball a little bit more. I think there's a lot of guys that would tell you that right now. But, I think it's the first progression of where he wants to be."

In the sixth inning of Saturday's 4-2 win over the Rockies, Bryant found the slugging percentage that has been missing this spring. He launched a pitch from Colorado's Jairo Díaz up the grassy hill beyond Sloan Park's left-center-field wall, and Bryant wore a big smile once in the dugout.

To show how much Spring Training statistics can fluctuate -- and, as such, are hard to evaluate on the surface -- Bryant's Cactus League OPS climbed to .735 after that blast. One at-bat earlier, when he struck out, Bryant had a .563 OPS on the spring.

As things stand now, Bryant has a .200/.375/.360 slash line with two extra-base hits, four RBIs and six walks (compared to seven strikeouts). The on-base percentage is evidence that Bryant is hardly lost in the batter's box, but rather still finding his rhythm.

"A couple hard liners here and there would probably let him sleep easier at night," Ross quipped. "He's on the right path. There's some things he's tried bringing into the season, and he's feeling a couple timing issues and some mechanical things out in spring.

"And listen, what I tell these guys, what I encourage all of them to do is take risks, try new things. If there's something on your mind, this is the time to try it and work on it. So, there's going to be sporadic performance on that."

Strop's spring debut
has already established himself as one of the great relievers in Cubs history, but he has not yet cemented a place in the 2021 bullpen. The veteran righty is in camp as a non-roster invitee and is continuing to push for a spot on the staff.

"He's looked good," Ross said. "I think in his live [BP] the other day, he touched 94 [mph], so that's promising. Not that that is everything, but it's just where he's healthy and the ball's coming out good. The slider looked like it had a pretty good shape. The cutter was decent.

"It's one of those, with Pedro, I'm just looking forward to him getting out there and competing in the game and getting that crooked hat out there in real competition."

In his Cactus League debut on Saturday, Strop issued a leadoff walk and allowed an infield single, and the lone run he gave up came via a wild pitch with a man on third. Strop avoided further damage in his one inning.

Worth noting
• Right-hander , who is aligned to be the Cubs' fourth starter, worked five solid innings on Saturday. Williams allowed one run (via a Trevor Story homer) and ended with four strikeouts and no walks. The righty has logged a 1.32 ERA through 13 2/3 Cactus League innings.

"Trevor's looked great," Ross said before the game. "He's identified some things and has continued to get better every time I've seen him out there. I've thought he's thrown great."

• Ross noted Saturday that right-hander (left intercostal injury) has continued to make positive strides in his throwing program. Wick recently did a light mound workout, but the Cubs continue to take a conservative approach with the reliever.

"Row Wick's in a really good spot -- itching to do more," Ross said. "We're trying to build him back up in the right capacity."

• Closer struck out two batters and gave up no hits in one shutout inning on Saturday. He hit 97-98 mph with his fastball, per reports in Arizona. ... Righty (non-roster invitee) also struck out a pair in one scoreless frame in his bid to win an Opening Day job.

• For Saturday's game, Ross started in left, in center and in right. It could be one outfield variation this season against a lefty. Ross will also find late-game moments to shift Happ to left from center, given Marisnick's plus defense.

Minor Leaguer arrested in Colorado
Per multiple reports, Minor League right-hander Jesus Camargo had been arrested in Colorado on drug-related charges.

Camarago, 25, was signed out of Mexico in 2014 and last pitched in the Cubs' system for Class A Myrtle Beach in 2019.

"We were made aware of the arrest of one of our Minor League players," Cubs senior vice president of communications Julian Green said in a statement. "We are currently investigating the matter in coordination with Major League Baseball and will not make further comment until we gather further details."

Up next
Right-hander Alec Mills is scheduled to start for the Cubs on Sunday, when the North Siders host the rival Reds at 3:05 p.m. CT at Sloan Park. The game will be televised on MLB.TV and Marquee Sports Network, and available on 670 AM The Score.