Cubs

Cubs reportedly sign Dontrelle Willis to minor-league deal

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Cubs reportedly sign Dontrelle Willis to minor-league deal

According to a report, the Cubs continued to add to their pitching staff Friday night:

cubs sign dontrelle willis to minor-league deal Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 5, 2013
officially, d-train has an invite to cubs minor-league camp. but if he is throwing well, he may get chances in big camp Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 5, 2013
To say Willis has had an eventful career is a bit of an understatement. He turns 31 next week and has already pitched nine seasons in the majors.

The Cubs drafted the lanky lefty in the eighth round of the 2000 Draft before sending him to the Marlins in the deal that brought Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca to Chicago.

Willis burst onto the scene as a 21-year-old in 2003, winning 14 games and taking home the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He finished second in Cy Young voting in '05, when he won 22 games and finished with a 2.63 ERA.

In December 2007, he was packaged with Miguel Cabrera in a deal that sent both players to Detroit. Willis' first season there was a complete disaster as he appeared in eight games (seven starts) and walked 35 batters in 24 innings with a 9.38 ERA.

He hasn't been able to stick in the majors since and bounced around a bevy of teams before signing on with the Baltimore Orioles last year. But that didn't work out, either, and he voluntarily retired from the team in early July.

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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