Cubs

Cubs dealt another serious punch to the gut with Pedro Strop injury

Cubs dealt another serious punch to the gut with Pedro Strop injury

The Cubs may have won the battle Thursday in Washington D.C., but it came at a serious cost in their hopes of winning the "war" (aka another World Series).

Pedro Strop will miss at least a couple weeks after injuring his hamstring during Thursday's 4-3 Cubs win at Nationals Park.

Strop came into the game with one out in the eighth inning and then pitched the entire ninth. The Cubs took the lead in the top of the 10th and manager Joe Maddon opted to let Strop hit for himself with the bases loaded and one out, with an eye on at least facing the first batter in the bottom of the 10th.

Strop hit a groundball to Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon, who fired home to get the lead runner and catcher Matt Wieters relayed to first, where the Nationals got the Cubs pitcher by a hair. But Strop came up limping on the play, pointing to his left hamstring.

Randy Rosario came on to close out the victory and push the Cubs 1.5 games up in the division, but the reports on Strop were not good.

He'll be sidelined at least a couple weeks with the hamstring injury and will undergo an MRI Friday:

Strop has been a lifesaver for the Cubs this season, stepping in as closer with Brandon Morrow on the disabled list the entire second half of the season.

In that time, Strop has locked down the ninth inning, going 11-for-13 in save chances and he picked up his sixth win of the season Thursday.

The Cubs have already been against the ropes lately with an exhausted bullpen that has been short on reliable options for Maddon. Now they'll be without Strop for an indeterminate amount of time that very well could carry into the playoffs. The regular season ends two weeks from this Sunday.

Morrow is working toward a return, but even in a best case scenario, he wouldn't be back until next Friday (Sept. 21). There's also a question how effective he'll be as he is still not 100 percent after a bone bruise in his forearm.

Whenever Morrow returns, the Cubs will script his first few game appearances and have already said he will not regain the closer's role immediately.

As for who closes in Strop's place, Maddon said, "I have no idea. All of those guys are on fumes."

The Cubs do not have another off-day until next Thursday and have had to lean heavily on top relievers like Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson and Jesse Chavez lately as Carl Edwards Jr. tries to right the ship during a recent bout of struggles.

This is time of year where the bullpen becomes a central focus of every contending team as they battle down the stretch and into October.

If ever there was a time for the Cubs to put together some blowout wins to reduce the pressure and give guys a day or two of rest, it would be this weekend against the Reds at Wrigley Field.

Yu Darvish is ready for takeoff

Yu Darvish is ready for takeoff

Yu know the Cubs season is right around the corner when we catch word of a Darvish bullpen.

Darvish still hasn't even been a member of the Cubs organization for a full calendar year, but almost that entire time has been spent with the focus firmly on his health.

That hasn't changed for the 32-year-old pitcher enjoying his first Cubs Convention amid Winter Storm Harper at the Sheraton Grand Chicago this weekend.

Darvish said he is fully healthy now and his offseason program is progressing along slowly after he underwent a debridement procedure on his right elbow in September.

Darvish was slated to throw from 120 feet for the first time Saturday, planning 20 pitches from that distance. From there, he will have a bullpen on Friday.

"His health is everything, clearly," Theo Epstein said. "I know it's not worth anything at this point of the calendar, but the reports are terrific. He's added a lot of good muscle, he's added a lot of flexibility.

"Most importantly, his arm feels terrific. He's experiencing no discomfort whatsoever when throwing and when testing his arm. He's walking around with a little bit of confidence. I think that reflects how he's feeling about himself physically."

Cubs fans might be sick of hearing this narrative, but a healthy Darvish really can do a quite a bit in changing the team's overall fortunes for 2019. This is a guy who strikes out batters at a higher rate than any other starting pitcher in baseball history and even when he was able to pitch in 2018, he sported an ERA more than a run-and-a-half higher than his previous career mark.

The Cubs know their road to success goes through the starting rotation (even nowadays in the world of extreme bullpenning) and Darvish has emerged as the ultimate X-factor.

An offseason of rest and rehab has Darvish and the Cubs feeling confident with less than a month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

"Now, the important part starts," Epstein said. "Just taking that into spring training and into the season and being ready for the battle and getting some really good hitters out and being someone we can lean on in that rotation."

The Cubs had enough concerns about their overall state of the rotation (including Darvish) that they picked up Cole Hamels' $20 million option despite a serious budget crunch this winter.

But Hamels — Darvish's former teammate with the Rangers — has something most Cubs fans don't: A firsthand look at how dominating Darvish can be when he's healthy.

"I know he wants to do really well," Hamels said. "And he's capable of so much. You've seen bits and pieces when he was with Texas and the Dodgers for a few games — he's really good. He can carry a game; he can carry a month of starts for a team.

"So to be able to put him in between all of us and all of us working together, it's going to be a lights-out rotation. That's what it takes. I know he's ready to do it. When he's healthy, he's one of the best in the game."

Jon Lester and Anthony Rizzo make surprise 'appearances' at Cubs Convention

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@CUBS

Jon Lester and Anthony Rizzo make surprise 'appearances' at Cubs Convention

Technology sure is neat.

Friday, Cubs All-Stars Jon Lester and Anthony Rizzo were noticably absent from the opening ceremonies of Cubs Convention. As two of the team's premier players, fans surely felt their absences at the annual event.

Thanks to the power of FaceTime, though, both Lester and Rizzo were able to "appear" at the convention on Saturday. Kris Bryant called Rizzo while on stage during a panel, while Lester appeared at a side station. Check it out:

Lester has been golfing in Florida this week (with good friend John Lackey, one might add). Rizzo recently got married, but it is unclear if his absence is honeymoon related or not.

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