Strop shows promise in bid for save chances

Quintana spins 3 scoreless, raves about Cubs rotation

March 6th, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- Jorge Soler flailed at a pitch from Cubs reliever and dropped to a knee in the batter's box on his follow through. It was an emphatic strikeout that served as the highlight of Strop's Cactus League debut against the Royals on Wednesday afternoon.

Strop's appearance in the 3-1 victory over Kansas City was not entirely clean, but it marked the first step in prepping him once again for a versatile role at the back end of Chicago's bullpen. While closer (right elbow) is sidelined in April, expect Strop to get the bulk of the save chances. Still, manager Joe Maddon is sticking with the no-labels approach to his main relief arms.

"Stropy is ego-less when it comes to those moments," Maddon said. "So, him being out there and being ready in a variety of different spots helps everybody out there to do the same thing. So, I like it. I think it's healthy. I know it's easier from my perspective."

In the fourth inning on Wednesday, Strop fired 21 pitches (12 strikes) to four batters before being pulled from the game. He allowed a single, issued a walk and exited with runners on the corners and two outs. The one run attached to Strop's pitching line came after his exit off lefty bullpen candidate .

Last season, Strop turned in a 2.26 ERA in 60 appearances for the Cubs, and he has been a model of consistency for years now. In fact, Strop is the only pitcher in Cubs history to have at least 50 games and a sub-3.00 ERA in at least five seasons. Bruce Sutter held the previous club record with four such campaigns. In parts of six tours with the Cubs, Strop has a 2.63 ERA in 361 games.

"He doesn't get near the due that he is due," Maddon said. "This is one of the most consistent relief pitchers in baseball -- baseball -- over the last four or five years. You can pretty much count on appearances, what the ERA's going to look like, hits per innings pitched, strikeouts, walks. If you need a save, he's going to get it for you, too. Durability. Not only that, what he does on the team [as a leader] is pretty spectacular."

Quintana takes next step

It was only two years ago that lefty was an Opening Day starter for the White Sox. Now with the Cubs, who have a rotation laden with veterans, the pitcher appears lined up to be the fifth starter. That is fine by Quintana.

"It doesn't matter for me," Quintana said. "This is the best rotation I've been on. It's cool to be here. A couple of these guys have won championships. They know a lot about pitching and have a lot of experience. It's cool to be around and, every five days, go to the mound and get a really good opportunity to win games behind them. It's pretty amazing."

In his second Cactus League start of the spring, Quintana spun three scoreless innings against the Royals on Wednesday. He struck out two, walked one and allowed one hit. The lefty said he continued to focus on his changeup, especially with runners on base.

"I felt great today," Quintana said. "I keep building my progress and keep working on my stuff. I got a couple situations with runners on first. I threw my changeup and kept working with that. Everything worked good."

Worth noting

• The Cubs are planning on having right-hander throw in a simulated-game setting at 2 p.m. CT on Friday at the team's complex, rather than making the trip to Peoria to face the Mariners (7:40 p.m. CT). Lefty will also throw in the afternoon sim game in Mesa.

• Left-hander (left wrist) is still in a shut-down period from throwing. While the target date for Cedeno to resume playing catch is not immediately known, Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Wednesday that there may still be enough time on the spring calendar to get the reliever ample innings, barring any setbacks.

• Righty made his Cactus League debut on Wednesday, turning in one shutout inning against Kansas City. He struck out one and allowed one hit. Reliever also logged one scoreless frame. Right-hander worked three innings out of the bullpen, ending with seven outs via grounders, one strikeout and three hits scattered.

Up next

Opening Day starter is scheduled to take the ball for the Cubs in a 2:05 p.m. CT game against the Rockies on Thursday at Sloan Park. Lester has allowed two runs on three hits with six strikeouts and two walks in five innings (two starts) in Cactus League play this spring. Colorado will give the start to righty Antonio Senzatela.