Cubs

Could David Ross make the jump from 'Dancing With The Stars' to MLB manager?

Could David Ross make the jump from 'Dancing With The Stars' to MLB manager?

Nowadays, David Ross' biggest worry involves executing dance steps instead of hitting fastballs in front of millions on live TV. Or, in the case of a dance he did earlier this month, executing those steps while taking off his pants in front of that primetime audience on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars."

"I did the ‘Magic Mike' routine the other night," Ross, fully clothed in the Wrigley Field press box, explained of his April 3 faux-striptease dance. "I literally couldn't sleep one night — I dropped my kids off at school, like half the elementary school goes, 'Mr. Ross, I watched you on Dancing With The Stars.' And I knew I had Magic Mike. So I'm like, wait a minute, all these 7-, 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds are gonna watch me take off my pants and shirt. It scared me to death."

Ross was back in the warm embrace of Wrigley Field on a chilly Wednesday evening to receive his 2016 World Series ring, throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Jon Lester ("I wanted to shake him off so bad," Ross laughed) and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the Seventh Inning Stretch. Life after baseball has suited the longtime backup catcher well, even the celebrity aspect of it has been surreal for a guy who'll remind anyone within earshot that he hit .229 in his 15-year career. He's hung out with Eddie Vedder, done the late-night talk show circuit, competed against the likes of Mr. T on "Dancing With the Stars" and has a book coming out next month. 

"Like, I can't even read," Ross said. "How do I have a book coming out?"

But Ross has, on occasion, felt the itch to return to baseball. He's not getting back in as a player, but what about as a manager?

"That's hard to say," Ross said. "I think that I've got a lot of people saying that I could manage and this and that. That's a huge compliment, and I take that very seriously. But I want to know what goes into it."

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A desire to figure out what it takes to manage a baseball team is why Ross took a job with the Cubs' front office as a special assistant to baseball operations in January. He'll do some amateur scouting from home but also wants to learn about the kind of information Joe Maddon receives and how he works with a coaching staff and roster. 

"I know it's a lot harder than people give it credit for, and I don't want to take that for granted and say 'Oh, yeah, I'd make a great manager, I could just step down there and do it,'" Ross said. "I know that's not true. There will be a time for figuring out what role that I'll have in baseball, and that's what's great about Theo (Epstein) giving me the opportunity to try different avenues and see what I like the most."

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo — one of Ross' closest friends — brought up a line of questioning the 40-year-old Ross will have to ask himself, though, if he ever does want to return to a major league dugout. 

"You know, there's just so many cons that come along with that," Rizzo said. "Why? Why would he? He's making more money this year off the field than if he was playing or managing. He's got his family. If he wanted to, I could see him being a manager, but I just don't see that right now for him."  

But if Ross ever were to decide to give managing a try, there are plenty around the game who believe he'd be good at it. Count his former manager among those people. 

Maddon explained that beyond his baseball knowledge, Ross is "people bright" and has the ability to work with a wide range of personalities. Those people skills are one of the biggest reasons why Ross left such an indelible mark on the 2016 Cubs.

"I think he'd do a great job handling what he has to do on a daily basis," Maddon said. "His sense of humor, but also his intensity and his drive all would be obvious. He's going to do that at some point when he's done dancing.

"Another reason why (he'd succeed) is he's stepping out of his comfort zone right now (on 'Dancing With The Stars'). That's not comfortable. That takes a big leap, literally, of some kind of faith to jump out in front of the nation on a dance floor after being baseball player for so many years. I love that. That in and of itself tells me he'll be a good manager. He has all the necessary requirements, plus he's not afraid to take a chance or a risk. Hire him." 

Maybe someday Ross will contact Maddon for a job recommendation, but that's somewhere off in the future. For now, he needs to figure out a way to impress Carrie Ann Inaba, the "Dancing With The Stars" judge who was booed by a sold out crowd Monday at Wrigley Field after giving Ross' waltz a "seven" rating (the other three judges rated Ross' dance as an eight). 

"I'm enjoying the heck out of it," Ross said. "You think good things happen to good people, you try to do good things and hope it pays off, but I wasn't trying for any of this. I was just being myself and that's what I think the people appreciate." 

Cubs taking care to make sure Pedro Strop's hamstring issues are behind him

Cubs taking care to make sure Pedro Strop's hamstring issues are behind him

Pedro Strop said he feels "ready" in his return from a hamstring injury, but he and the Cubs aren't going to rush it.

The veteran reliever has missed most of May with the injury, but threw 25-pitch bullpens on both Monday and Wednesday and has reported zero issues. He said it's been more than a week since he last felt pain in the area.

But considering this is Strop's third hamstring injury in the last eight months, the Cubs want to be extra cautious to make sure this will not happen again.

Plus, there's no point in rushing him back right now, even with the bullpen struggling. The Cubs would certainly welcome Strop back to the active roster immediately, but he's going to be a huge key for them down the stretch and they need to ensure he's healthy for that.

"I think we're just being overly cautious because we don't want this to happen again," Joe Maddon said. 

But how can Cubs avoid another hamstring injury with the soon-to-be-34-year-old? 

"We're building strength, we're working hard to make it stronger instead of just, 'Oh, it's OK and pain-free, let's go out there and have the same thing happen again,'" Strop said. "We're just taking care."

He missed the final two weeks of the regular season last year and pitched through "severe pain" in the National League wild-card game after first hurting his hamstring in Washington D.C. He then missed time in spring training with an issue in the other leg.

The injuries are not all directly related, but hamstrings are tricky by nature.

"That's a hammy, man. When you mess up with those things, they keep reminding you that they're there," Maddon said. "He has to continue to be proactive with the work in between and our guys in the back there do a wonderful job rehabbing and strengthening. 

"I think some guys are just predetermined to do those kinds of things and it really stinks. But it happens. So our next best thing is to create that program that hopefully prevents it from happening again. 

"In the meantime, just really monitoring him and not pushing him too hard, etc. But hamstrings are hamstrings, man. They're just no fun. Once you pull them once, there's a chance to do it again."

Strop said he will throw another bullpen Saturday and doesn't believe he needs a rehab stint. Because this was a leg injury, he's been able to continue throwing throughout the recovery process and keep his arm strength up.

If Strop continues to report well and doesn't go on a rehab assignment, we could possibly see him back in the Cubs bullpen early next week, which would be a welcome sign for a unit that has suddenly run into some tough sledding of late.

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Pedro Strop adds another chapter to the Legend of El Mago

Pedro Strop adds another chapter to the Legend of El Mago

The Legend of El Mago continues to grow. 

Two days after Javy Baez's pinch-hit walk-off, Pedro Strop gave us a behind-the-scenes account of the ordeal.

Baez did not start that Tuesday night game because of a heel/ankle injury suffered two days earlier, but he was called on to pinch hit with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Cubs had just battled back to tie things up when Kris Bryant hustled home on Albert Almora Jr.'s tapper in front of home plate.

It was the second straight game in which Baez didn't play, but as the ninth inning approached and the Cubs began to mount their comeback, he talked the Cubs training staff into taping his ankle and letting him pinch-hit. 

At the same time, Baez was telling fellow injured teammate Strop that he was going to make sure the Cubs won the game before extra innings.

"Oh my god, that was crazy," an animated Strop said. "We were just sitting [in the clubhouse] watching the game. We were getting ready to go to the dugout and support the boys and I was like, 'Let's go, we don't want to go to extra innings.' He's like, 'No extra innings, I'm gonna end this game right now.' 

"He started putting his shoes on and I'm like, 'Javy, you're not playing today.' And all of a sudden, I hear on the TV and they're like, 'Joe Maddon's going to his bench; Javy Baez is pinch hitting.' I was like, 'What?! Is this really gonna happen?'

"And then first pitch, it happens. Oh my god, it was crazy. I started running like crazy in here and was just screaming. It was unbelievable."

Strop — who is recovering from a hamstring injury — joked that the celebration was more proof he's nearing 100 percent health.

As for Baez, he assured everybody he would've been able to stay in Tuesday's game to play defense if it went into extra innings and he was in the starting lineup for both Wednesday and Thursday's games against the Phillies.

"I told Stroppy I was gonna end the game and he didn't believe me," Baez said. "And then everything happened and Stroppy told me, 'I thought I saw everything in baseball, but I've never seen this.' It was a great moment and I was swinging first pitch — like always."

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