CHICAGO -- This spring, reliever Pedro Strop was limited to four games because of a sore left calf but still made the Cubs' Opening Day roster. As far as the right-hander is concerned, throwing two times off a mound since Sept. 13 is about the same and Strop was pronounced
CHICAGO -- This spring, reliever Pedro Strop was limited to four games because of a sore left calf but still made the Cubs' Opening Day roster. As far as the right-hander is concerned, throwing two times off a mound since Sept. 13 is about the same and Strop was pronounced healthy enough to be included on the Cubs' 25-man roster for Tuesday's National League Wild Card Game.
While Strop was ready, reliever C.J. Edwards was not, and the right-hander was not included on the roster because of some right forearm soreness, which he felt after Sunday's game. Because of the one-and-done nature of the Wild Card Game, the Cubs did not want to risk being short-handed if Edwards can't go.
:: NL Wild Card Game schedule and results ::
Strop has been sidelined with a left hamstring strain, which he injured running the bases, and was initially projected to be ready for the NL Division Series, which begins Thursday at Miller Park against the Brewers -- if the Cubs win tonight.
"I like to be in the game so much, I like to be on the mound and compete," Strop said Tuesday sitting in the Cubs' dugout at Wrigley Field. "Watching my guys from here and not being able to help them perform on the field, it was tough for me. I just found a way to help, talking with my guys."
What if the Rockies try to bunt against him and test his leg?
"I'm ready for that," Strop said. "I've already tested it. I'll be able to field and get them out. If it's a really fast guy, I'll do whatever I can do to get him out. If not, I'll try to get a ground ball or double play."
Manager Joe Maddon said he didn't watch Strop's bullpen sessions but said everyone gave the right-hander the go-ahead.
"We feel comfortable about it and he feels comfortable about it, so we'll use him," Maddon said.
This is the Cubs' second Wild Card Game under Maddon. In 2015, Jacob Arrieta threw a shutout to lead the Cubs to a 4-0 win over the Pirates and advance to the NL Division Series.
Javier Baez remembers the 2015 game. Kyle Schwarber hit a home run that Baez joked was still going.
"Everybody was into the game, everyone was in [on] our plan and on the same page," Baez said. "I don't think we're there right now, but you know, we're fighting to get there. If we do that, we'll be together in every at-bat, every pitch and supporting our teammates."
Jonathan Lester (18-6, 3.32 ERA) will start in his second career Wild Card Game; he also did so in 2014 for the Athletics. The lefty's first postseason start was for the Red Sox against the Rockies in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series. He did make two relief appearances in the American League Championship Series that year before the start. Lester is 9-7 with a 2.48 ERA in his 21 career postseason starts, which includes a 3-1 record and 1.87 ERA in seven postseason starts over the past two Octobers.
If Lester struggles on Tuesday, the Cubs will have Cole Hamels in the bullpen. Hamels has pitched just once in relief -- in 2011 with the Phillies in the regular-season finale. Kyle Hendricks, who was warming up in the bullpen on Monday during the tiebreaker game, also is an option. If the Cubs do advance, Hendricks is expected to start Game 1 of the NLDS. The Cubs' bullpen has been busy lately. Steve Cishek has pitched five of the past six days, and Jesse Chavez has pitched four of the past six.
Maddon has not had a bonafide closer since Brandon Morrow was injured in mid July. Strop may be back on the roster, but he's not likely to be used in a high-leverage situation like the ninth inning. Chicago's relievers did post the best ERA in the NL this season (3.35), yet they have provided anxious moments. The tiebreaker game on Monday was a perfect example. Chavez worked two perfect innings, but Justin Wilson started the eighth and threw a slider to Orlando Arcia that ignited a two-run inning. The Brewers won, 3-1.
Benjamin Zobrist may be listed as an infielder, but he could start in the outfield and then switch when Maddon makes his defensive adjustments. Daniel Murphy has batted .297 in 35 games since joining the Cubs. Baez may be the best shortstop in the NL. He finished the regular season as the first player in Major League history to record at least 40 doubles, nine triples, 34 homers, 111 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in a single season. While Baez is the quarterback on the infield, Anthony Rizzo is the unofficial captain.
Speedster Terrance Gore could be the secret weapon. As a pinch-runner, he's 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts. Jason Heyward has been starting in center field, then switching to right when Maddon makes his defensive tweaks late in the game. The versatile lineup -- and the fact that the Cubs are facing lefty Kyle Freeland -- may prompt Maddon to start Kristopher Bryant in left and have rookie David Bote at third. There are a lot of mix and match parts.
Willson Contreras has scuffled offensively, batting .200 since the All-Star break and .159 in September, but he has matched up well with Lester. Contreras has thrown out 34 percent of potential basestealers. The Rockies finished with 95 stolen bases, tied for third most in the NL.
Starting pitchers (1)
Jorge De La Rosa
Thomas La Stella
Albert Almora Jr.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.