MESA, Ariz. — Cubs reliever Pedro Strop wore a mask as he spoke to media Thursday morning outside the Cubs’ spring training clubhouse.
That may not sound like a big deal, but he didn’t wear one the last time he met with reporters at a safely distanced, outdoor interview session. And it seemed as much a part of his message of remorse Thursday as his forceful words.
“There’s no excuse. I’m going to start from there: There’s no excuse,” said Strop, who apologized to teammates, coaches and the front office for violating the MLB ban on indoor dining last week when he went out with Franmil Reyes and other Cleveland players.
“We’ve got to [follow] our protocols. We have to do it — I’m going to do it,” Strop stressed. “I did one mistake, but I’m not expecting to do it again because I love the game of baseball, and I want to play. If we keep making those kinds of mistakes we’re not going to be able to play. We can only control what we can control.
“I did apologize to the boys, my teammates, coaches: ‘I’m sorry to expose you guys to the terrible virus and I promise it’s not going to happen again.’ I was really upset that that happened, especially me — I always want to do things right. And I did make that mistake, and I felt bad.”
Strop, who’s in camp as a minor-league free agent trying to make the roster, said he’s not sure how MLB learned of the violation (although photos were shared on social media). He said he got a call Saturday from Cubs president Jed Hoyer about MLB action over the violation.
He was kept out of camp until Tuesday, testing negative during his time away.
“I just want to take the chance to apologize to the fans and to my teammates and especially to let them know that I do care about everybody’s health,” Strop said. “And to let all the players know that the rules are there. Sometimes we kind of ignore them a little bit, but they’re there, and they’re there for a reason. I want people to take this as an example.
“I absolutely did not mean to do that on purpose — It did happen,” he said, “but I didn’t mean to expose my teammates to COVID, my family or others. And I really apologize for it.”
Manager David Ross said earlier this week that he didn’t need to hear an apology from Strop, that it was a mistake that only hurt Strop (in lost time to earn a roster spot).
But one of Strop’s larger messages Thursday resonates in a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel moment of the pandemic in which people are getting vaccinations at increasing rates and glimpses of normalcy have returned to some sectors.
“The pandemic’s been so long that sometimes you go through the motions, and, like, OK, you go to dinner,” Strop said. “But at the same time we didn’t realize we were making a big mistake exposing ourselves to a dinner where a lot of people were going.
“And there’s not an excuse for that. We made a mistake, and I think we paid the price,” he added. “And hopefully it’s a good thing that it didn’t go farther; as of right now we’re negative on the tests. But I don’t know if everybody’s going to run with the same luck.
“So let’s pay attention to the protocols and guys don’t make the same mistakes that I did.”