Notes: Happ healing; Strop rejoins Cubs

September 4th, 2020

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager David Ross sounded optimistic on Friday about getting back into the lineup in the near future. For the opener of Chicago's weekend set against the Cardinals, Ross felt it made sense to give the outfielder a little more time.

In the fourth inning of Thursday's 6-2 loss to the Pirates, Happ fouled off a pitch from JT Brubaker, and the baseball hit the ground and then struck the Cubs' center fielder near the right eye. Happ left the game with a contusion, and X-rays were negative for any structural damage.

"He's day to day," Ross said on Friday, noting that Happ went through a series of additional testing in Chicago. "I know just, the eye is still coming back. I think it's going to be fine. It's just, with everything he's gone through today, I just don't think it's smart to start him."

Ross did not rule out having Happ available off the bench, if the outfielder felt up to it later in the evening.

Through 37 games this season, Happ has been the Cubs' top offensive performer, hitting .311/.421/.648 with 10 homers, 22 RBIs and a team-leading 22 walks. His 2.0 WAR (per Fangraphs) going into Friday's action was tied with Anthony Rendon and Trevor Story for the fourth-highest total in the Majors.

Strop rejoining Cubs
The Cubs are bringing -- one of the great relievers in the franchise's history -- back into the fold. On Friday, Chicago agreed to a Minor League contract (pending physical) with the veteran Strop, who will report to the alternate training site in South Bend, Ind.

The 35-year-old Strop made only four appearances this season for the Reds, allowing three runs (one earned) with three strikeouts and six walks in 2 1/3 innings. He was designated for assignment on Aug. 26 (and later released), following a stint on the injured list due to a right groin strain.

In parts of seven seasons with the Cubs, Strop posted a 2.90 ERA with 425 strikeouts against 147 walks in 411 appearances. Last season, the righty turned in a 4.97 ERA in 50 games while battling through a handful of injury issues. He signed a one-year pact with Cincinnati over the offseason.

Worth noting
• For Saturday's doubleheader against the Cardinals, Ross said the Cubs will promote right-hander from the South Bend site to start Game 1. For the second game, Chicago will go with a "bullpen day," though Ross did not name the planned opener.

Alzolay also started against St. Louis in a doubleheader back on Aug. 19. In that outing, the right-hander (ranked No. 6 by MLB Pipeline on the Cubs' Top 30 Prospects list) allowed just one unearned run over five innings, in which he struck out six and walked one.

With both José Quintana (left lat) and Tyler Chatwood (right forearm) on the 10-day injured list, it is possible Alzolay will stay with the Cubs beyond Saturday.

• The Cubs released right-handed relievers Cody Allen and A.J. Ramos on Thursday from the South Bend group. On Friday, Ross said the team's evaluators did not believe either reliever would be able to impact the Major League bullpen.

"Their stuff wasn't quite ready in their eyes," Ross said. "I listen to the feedback from that group there and what they're watching and seeing. And they felt like they weren't ready to contribute here for the big club. So, I trust in that group over there and their decision-making."

"All the success he's had in that spot. No, I'm just kidding. I like Schwarbs. He's been one of our best hitters. I love his at-bats. I love him at the top. He's going to set the tone for us tonight with Happer out. I have a ton of confidence." -- Ross, on why he had Kyle Schwarber (a career .215/.310/.462 hitter in the leadoff spot) batting first on Friday night