Cubs

Cubs bullpen in flux with Pedro Strop down and Hector Rondon sidelined

Cubs bullpen in flux with Pedro Strop down and Hector Rondon sidelined

The Cubs already had a dominant closer when they made a blockbuster trade with the New York Yankees in late July. But given Hector Rondon’s Tommy John history — and the unknown severity of Pedro Strop’s injury — Aroldis Chapman might become more of a necessity than a luxury item.

Chapman unleashed his 100-mph heat on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, blowing away the Los Angeles Angels in the ninth inning with three straight strikeouts to end a 3-1 victory that might have come at a price.

Strop is now scheduled to get an MRI on his left knee on Thursday morning, and it didn’t look good in the eighth inning as he hobbled off the field, supported by a teammate and an athletic trainer. Strop slid awkwardly and felt something while trying to field the soft groundball Yunel Escobar bounced up the third-base line.

That visual creates even more uncertainty as Rondon deals with what the Cubs are calling a sore triceps. Rondon — who hasn’t pitched in a game since Aug. 2 — played catch as part of his pregame routine but manager Joe Maddon still doesn’t know exactly when his right-handed reliever will be available.

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“There’s nothing negative,” Maddon said. “He’s trending in the right direction, not the wrong direction, so that’s where my focus is right now.”

Carl Edwards Jr. bailed the Cubs out of that eighth-inning jam, striking out Mike Trout and getting groundballs against Albert Pujols and Andrelton Simmons, again showing he’s ready for prime time, especially if Rondon (18 saves, 1.70 ERA) and Strop (21 holds, 2.89 ERA) become question marks in front of Chapman.

“It would change the entire complexion of the group,” Maddon said. “It would make ‘Smitty’ (Joe Smith) more pertinent. I’m not going to beat up C.J., for sure, I know that much. Whatever’s wrong with Stropy, he’s probably not pitching tomorrow, I know that also. So, yeah, we’re going to have to look at different folks.”

Sounds like Bryce Harper hasn't closed the door on returning to Nationals in free agency

Sounds like Bryce Harper hasn't closed the door on returning to Nationals in free agency

Bryce Harper could be playing in his final week of games as a Washington National as the 25-year-old superstar as about to become a free agent for the first time in his young career. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post was able to speak to Harper as he started to clean out his locker at Nationals Park wondering out loud whether or not this would be his last time in the Nationals' home locker room. 

 “If I walk into Nats Park as a visiting player?” Harper said Monday afternoon, sitting at that double locker in the prime spot, just off the entrance to the shower. “That’s weird. And who wants to see that? That’s really weird.”

The Bovada odds were released last week, as all signs point towards Harper leaving his current club to team up with fellow Las Vegas-native Kris Bryant and the Cubs this winter. And while the odds-makers are expecting Harper to bid farewell to Washington, Harper doesn't seem like he's quite ready to move on. 

“I think about other cities, but I love it here,” Harper said. “Am I in the plans, you know? I don’t know. It’s hard to think about because it’s all you know, and then you think about it, it’s like, ‘Well, it could all be over in a,’” and here, he snapped his fingers, “ ‘a second.’ It’s kind of crazy.”

Harper goes on to talk about how he grew up with the Nationals and how he's reluctant to leave something he knows. But, the Nationals are in one of the big markets in terms of baseball landscape, and can't quite offer the things the Cubs would that come along with playing in Chicago. And it sounds like the most important thing for Harper is being truly wanted. 

He kept saying he wants to be a part of the plan in Washington, but what he's leaving out is the price-tag that will come along with any team attempting to persuade the superstar outfielder to play for them. Washington likely won't be able to match some of the anticipated record-breaking deals expected to come Harper's way, which opens the door for teams like the Cubs. 

We're still about a month away from Bryce Harper and Manny Machado dominating the baseball conversations this off-season, but once the 2018 season comes to an end, expect the Cubs to make Harper a priority this winter. 

How both the Cubs and Cardinals could pop champagne at Wrigley Field on Friday

How both the Cubs and Cardinals could pop champagne at Wrigley Field on Friday

The Cubs face-off with their hated rival Cardinals this weekend as both clubs enter this week in position to nab a postseason spot. The Cubs are only five wins away from winning their 3rd straight NL Central division title while the Cardinals are clinging onto the final Wild Card spot in the NL. And with both teams gearing up to finish the season playing each, Gordon Wittenmyer from the Chicago Sun-Times broke down a scenario where the Cubs and Cardinals clinch Friday night. 

This scenario relies on the Cubs winning Friday night against the Cardinals, who have been a pesky thorn in the side of the Cubs winning 9 of the 16 meetings this season. But if the Cubs are able to prevail Friday, it would give both the Cubs and Cardinals the chance to celebrate at Wrigley Field, while also making the final two games of the season just rest days for the starters. 

As weird as it would be to see both the Cubs and Cardinals celebrating a postseason birth, I'm sure fans wouldn't mind the Cardinals have their moment as long as it means the Cubs are partying as well. Of course, all that partying would have to be done either late Friday night or Saturday because the Cubs and Cardinals play at 1:20 pm on Friday whereas Colorado plays at 7:10 pm.