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.

"It's certainly possible": Craig Kimbrel could be at Wrigley by the end of the week

"It's certainly possible": Craig Kimbrel could be at Wrigley by the end of the week

With each appearance that Craig Kimbrel makes in Iowa, the more anticipation for his arrival in Chicago grows. Kimbrel, who’s faced 11 batters over three appearances for the team’s Triple-A affiliate, is not far away from Wrigley. He’ll get in another inning of work on Tuesday, and then the team plans to meet with him and make a decision about next steps.

“He’s feeling really good and doing a nice job of getting himself ready,” Cubs’ President Theo Epstein said before Monday night’s game. “It’s not really about results or velo right now, it’s just kind of getting back into game shape and building that foundation. Tuesday’s an important checkpoint for him, to see how he’s feeling, and we’ll get together with him and make a call after that game.

“We’re getting close to the point where we’ll have established enough of a foundation where there’s an opportunity to take the next step provided he feels good with everything.” 

Once in Chicago, expect Kimbrel to be used as a closer in the most traditional sense of the word - at least at first. That means three out appearances in save situations, as opposed to a more flexible, leverage-based role that Kimbrel has -- at times throughout his career -- pushed back against. He only pitched more than an inning twice in 2018, and has done so 26 times over the span of his 542 game career. 

“With Craig, as he gets here, he’ll be slotted and really carefully,” Joe Maddon said. “And then as we get there, to the latter part of September, if it’s necessary, that’s when I think you look for the four outs possibly.

“He’ll be a three out guy when he gets here.” 

Some more news and notes from Wrigley Field as the Cubs begin a 4-game series against the Braves: 

  • After throwing 4 innings in relief on June 20th, Cubs top prospect Adbert Alzolay will make the first start of his major league career on Tuesday night. Alzolay is the presumed odd man out once Kyle Hendricks returns, but it sounds like the Cubs will give the rookie plenty of opportunities to prove he belongs with the major league club throughout the summer. “I think it’s all about can he perform at a level that allows him to contribute and make an impact,” Epstein said. “And it’s really important because you’re always looking for contributors and especially young ones that can come in, refresh the pitching staff, and be here for a while and make an impact. We need more of those guys.” 
  • There were a number of updates on injured Cubs pitchers on Monday. CJ Edwards threw up to 120 feet on Monday, and felt good according to Epstein. The reliever still has to throw a handful of side sessions before the team plans to approach him with a game progression. 
  • Kyle Hendricks threw 15 pitches off a mound, and also felt good after. He’s possibly in line to throw a longer bullpen later this week, and Epstein had mentioned the All-Star break as a time that’s “certainly in play” for his return. 
  • Brandon Morrow has thrown two side sessions in Arizona, and will throw a third sometime within the next two days. Prospect Nico Hoerner is also in Arizona taking part in baseball activities. Epstein mentioned the end of this week as a time that Hoerner could start seeing live at-bats again. 
  • 2B prospect Robel Garcia is making a ton of noise in Iowa. The 26-year-old is slashing .294/.366/.614 with 13 home runs over 43 games this year. With a lack of production from that position at the major league level (82 wRC+, 20th in MLB), speculation on Garcia’s timeline has grown of late. “He hits the ball really, really hard from both sides of the plate,” Epstein said. “He gets it in the air a lot, especially left-handed. He can turn around anyone’s fastball. Those are good ingredients - it’ll be interesting to see how he does as the league adjusts to him a little bit and challenges him with a heavier dose of breaking stuff.

    “I don’t want to put a timetable on it, but you’ve got to pay attention to a guy who’s performing at the level he is and offers the different skills that he has. Anyone on the Triple-A level is certainly on the radar.” 

Cardinals dealt tough blow as closer Jordan Hicks is diagnosed with torn UCL


Cardinals dealt tough blow as closer Jordan Hicks is diagnosed with torn UCL

As Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel ramps things up in Triple-A preparing for his MLB season debut, another NL Central closer is headed for a major surgery. 

Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that closer Jordan Hicks has a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow.

Hicks' injury is a devastating blow to the Cardinals bullpen, which ranks 10th in MLB with a 4.15 ERA entering action on Monday. The 22-year-old is one of the hardest throwing pitchers in baseball. His average sinker velocity in 2019 is 101.1 mph, with opponents hitting just .183 against it. His slider is even tougher to hit, with opponents batting just .154 versus that pitch.

Hicks hasn't been perfect (3.14 ERA, 29 appearances/28 2/3 innings), but he's been a reliable closer, converting 14 of his 15 chances. A bad month of May in which he allowed five earned runs in 7 1/3 innings hurt his ERA. Outside of that month, though, he's surrendered just five earned runs in 21 1/3 innings pitched.

The Cardinals said they're determining the next course of actions for Hicks, but torn UCLs require Tommy John surgery. If Hicks faces Tommy John, he likely will be out anywhere between 12 and 15 months, putting him on the shelf for the rest of 2019 and potentially all of the 2020 season.

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