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Strop aiming to be ready for postseason

Heyward, Cubs 'ready to be wherever' Maddon needs them on defense
September 29, 2018

CHICAGO -- As much as Cubs reliever Pedro Strop wanted to pitch in the regular season, he won't -- but he expects to be ready for the postseason.Just don't talk to him about playing before Thursday.If the Cubs don't win the National League Central, they could play a tiebreaker on

CHICAGO -- As much as Cubs reliever Pedro Strop wanted to pitch in the regular season, he won't -- but he expects to be ready for the postseason.
Just don't talk to him about playing before Thursday.
If the Cubs don't win the National League Central, they could play a tiebreaker on Monday or in the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday. But the Chicago reliever said the team isn't planning to play on either of those days.
"Thursday," Strop said. "Don't talk to me about Tuesday. That's the 'B' plan. We're looking for the 'A' plan."
The NL Division Series opens Thursday.

"We're looking for the playoffs," Strop said Saturday about his comeback from a left hamstring strain.
Strop has thrown off the mound twice since he injured his leg Sept. 13, and he has kept his arm in shape.
"We tested twice on the mound, and it went well," the right-hander said. "Now we'll make the next step, which is running, and make sure if I get in the game, I'll be able to at least cover first, which I think I'll be able to do."

Strop was not named the closer to replace Brandon Morrow when he was injured, but Strop is second on the team behind Morrow in saves with 13. Manager Joe Maddon said he'll stick with his mix-and-match approach in late innings.
"I really like what we're doing now, having all these different options late," Maddon said on Saturday. "I definitely would not say [Strop] is the closer. He's part of the back end of the bullpen. You saw what [Jesse] Chavez has been doing, [Jorge] De La Rosa continues to do great work, [Justin] Wilson is capable, Carl [Edwards Jr.] being on top of his game is capable. I would rather get the outs leading to that inning. All these different guys getting the work feel pretty good about themselves."
When Strop returns, Maddon said he won't thrust him into a ninth-inning situation right away.
"If we have this period of time [before the postseason starts], he could even throw a [simulated] game to find out," Maddon said. "The fact that he has not been disabled with his arm matters a lot."
Said Strop: "The most important thing is that I've been able to throw, so my arm is in shape. That will make the process quicker. It's a good thing I was able to throw."
Worth noting
• In the eighth inning on Friday against the Cardinals, Maddon moved Jason Heyward from center to right field and Benjamin Zobrist from right to second base. Both were tested on defense immediately, and both made solid plays.

"Honestly, anything that goes on now, it's been going on for a while, but it took time for us to be like, 'This is what's going to happen, this is what's going to happen,'" Heyward said. "Now we all just expect it. Early on, we were like, 'OK, we're going to be here, who's here, who's here? Get your bearings.' Now that we've been fortunate enough to have pretty much the same guys here, we all understand, we all know who's going to get used in which spot for the most part.
"At the end of the day we know, especially at this time of year, to be ready to be wherever," Heyward said. "Seeing [pitcher] Travis Wood play left field, you know it's going to happen from time to time. That kind of sets us apart from other teams, just because that can happen and we're ready for it."
There aren't many teams that would insert a pitcher in the outfield, but Maddon did just that with Wood in three games in 2016.
"If I'm playing against a team and I see a pitcher in left field, that's in my head," Heyward said. "It's not going to determine the outcome of the game, but that's something different. It just shows you we're going to try everything we can to win that game that night."

Daniel Murphy has usually been the odd man out when the Cubs make a defensive switch.
"Murph's all on board," Maddon said. "He's doing a great job as leadoff hitter. In the latter part of the game, by hitting leadoff, if you have the lead, you can get him out possibly sooner. When you're into that defensive manuevering, if you can get that guy who you want to take out higher in the batting order, it normally helps."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.