Stroman hopes to be ‘weapon’ in Cubs’ bullpen

September 21st, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian’s Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- believes he can play an important role for the Cubs with less than two weeks left in the regular season and a playoff berth hanging in the balance. And the righty has informed manager David Ross that he is available for any situation.

“I'm ready. I talked to Rossy and let him know,” Stroman said. “I know my stuff plays against anyone. And it's exciting for me to be used in multiple roles. I know that I've established myself as a starter, but to go out there and close games or to be used as an opener, to be used for a few innings in big-time roles, I think that's exciting.

“I think that's what we need right now. And I'm happy to contribute in whatever way helps.”

Cubs fans got a glimpse of that last weekend when Stroman made a surprising return from the injured list and promptly pitched on back-to-back days for the first time in his nine-year MLB career. In Arizona, the veteran righty pitched on Friday and Saturday, logging 31 pitches in two innings the first night and following up with 13 pitches in one inning the next game.

It was a chance for Stroman to show Ross and his staff that he was healthy enough to pitch, and also willing to take on any assignment. That was important to Stroman, who hopes to play a part in pushing the Cubs’ across the finish line and into the postseason for the first time in a 162-game season since 2018.

“I'm glad he used me and I'm glad that they understand my ability to bounce back, too,” Stroman said. “I feel like it was just a concern -- me being a starter and having a routine. At this point in my career, I know I'm an elite starter in the league, but where we're at right now, I know I can be a weapon out of the bullpen.”

That is where the need is right now for the Cubs, too.

Closer Adbert Alzolay and setup man Michael Fulmer are both currently on the 15-day IL. Two of Ross’ trusted late-inning arms, Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr., are extending their career-high workloads as relievers with each appearance. Brad Boxberger only recently returned from the IL, and Drew Smyly and Hayden Wesneski (both in the Opening Day rotation) are currently in the ‘pen, along with a host of arms trying to earn trust.

“There’s a lot of confidence there [in Stroman],” Ross said. “With Fulmer out and Adbert out, there’s a real need in the bullpen. He’s somebody that can handle those moments and give us a real weapon down there. It feels like he’s the right guy, and willing to do whatever.”

Stroman did acknowledge that he is still pitching at less than full strength.

The pitcher said he still has fractured cartilage between the ninth and 10th ribs on his right side, but the injury continues to heal. Stroman noted that he received a cortisone shot while sidelined, aiding his ability to come back. By the time he was activated on Friday -- following six-plus weeks shelved due to a hip setback and the side issue -- Stroman felt strong enough to return for the Cubs.

“It already feels way, way better than it did last week and in the week before that,” Stroman said. “I'm not slightly worried about it at all. If anything, it's just soreness that I have to deal with in between [outings].”

Stroman said rest is what is required for his specific injury, but there is a whole offseason coming for that.

“I’m just looking to contribute,” he said. “Hopefully, my offseason’s pushed back – not until November.”