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Cubs' bullpen battle will go down to wire

Strop's status among factors as club fills final two spots
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs are not expected to finalize their eight-man bullpen until after their last two exhibition games against the Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday and Tuesday, general manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday night.

The Cubs are set on six relievers: closer Brandon Morrow, Carl Edwards Jr., Steve Cishek, Brian Duensing, Justin Wilson and Mike Montgomery.

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MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs are not expected to finalize their eight-man bullpen until after their last two exhibition games against the Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday and Tuesday, general manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday night.

The Cubs are set on six relievers: closer Brandon Morrow, Carl Edwards Jr., Steve Cishek, Brian Duensing, Justin Wilson and Mike Montgomery.

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The question has been whether right-hander Pedro Strop is ready. He was slowed by a sore left calf and then an illness, and made his second Cactus League appearance in Saturday night's 3-0 win over the Rockies, retiring DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story in the sixth on nine pitches.

"Let's see how 'Stroppy' holds up now, and then we'll make our determinations," manager Joe Maddon said before the game. "If we're not satisfied with his health, then we'll have to do something else."

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If Strop is ready, there would only be one opening. The Cubs' final four candidates still in spring camp include Anthony Bass, Eddie Butler, Justin Hancock, and Kyle Ryan. Butler is out of options; Bass, Hancock and Ryan are non-roster invitees.

"We do have a few more conversations we have to have," Hoyer said. "I think we'll be able to announce something in Fort Myers, but not before that. We want to make sure everyone comes through healthy. We're close. In a couple days, we'll have a good feel for it."

The Cubs also are checking the waiver wire to see which pitchers become available.

One of the issues being discussed is whether the Cubs want someone who can provide some innings. Butler started Saturday night in a split squad's 7-3 loss to the Mariners, while Bass has pitched both as a starter and reliever, including last season for the Nippon Ham Fighters.

"That's one of the discussions we've had," Hoyer said about adding another long reliever. "Early in the season, every team, you're not expecting starters to go quite as deep or quite as long in pitch counts. Protecting relievers early in the season and knowing we may not be getting starts quite as deep, I think having some length is something we have kind of prioritized."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Pedro Strop