Pedro Strop might be the most positive, emotional player on a Cubs team that loves to express itself, and he feared the worst after he heard a pop in his left knee and couldn’t straighten out his leg.
“It was a horrible feeling,” Strop said. “I almost cried, just thinking I might be out for the season. This is a really special group. I want to be part of it in the playoffs and the World Series.”
Strop, a featured part of that October blueprint as a trusted setup guy, could exhale after Thursday morning’s MRI revealed a torn meniscus that will sideline him for four-to-six weeks – instead of until Opening Day 2017. Strop will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Friday, the relative good news being the MRI didn’t show any torn ligaments or season-ending damage.
“It could have been worse,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It could have gone in any direction, obviously, so in some ways, we’re lucky.”
Strop didn’t get a good jump off the Wrigley Field mound on Wednesday night, when Los Angeles Angels leadoff guy Yunel Escobar began the eighth inning by softly hitting a groundball up the third-base line. Strop felt his adrenaline take over and slid awkwardly while picking up the ball, getting caught in the grass as the weight of his body collapsed onto his left knee.
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Javier Baez should be credited with a save in that 3-1 victory over the Angels. The third baseman shouted “No! No! No!” and grabbed Strop before he could fire the ball to first base.
“The doctor said maybe if I turned to make the throw, it could be worse,” Strop said. “So I appreciate how Javy kind of hugged me and didn’t let me throw the ball.”
Strop walked around the clubhouse in crutches before Thursday night’s rivalry game against the St. Louis Cardinals. To take Strop’s spot in the bullpen, the Cubs recalled hard-throwing right-hander Justin Grimm – who’s been squeezed by the numbers game because of his minor-league option – from Triple-A Iowa.
“It was terrible news,” Grimm said. “Honestly, it really was, even when I got the call that I was coming back to the big leagues. Strop’s an unbelievable teammate, probably one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. He always comes to the field with a smile on his face. It’s a tough loss, but I hope we get him back as soon as we can.”
The final image of Strop (2.89 ERA, 21 holds) this season doesn’t have to be him limping off the field with the help of Baez and an athletic trainer. Soon enough, Strop should be pointing at the sky and pounding his chest again.
“I know I’m going to be back next month,” Strop said. “And I’m going to keep helping this team to win – and get where we want to (go) – a World Series championship.”