Cubs manager David Ross invited his former teammate Pedro Strop to stop by his office more often.
“Yeah, Stropy, I’ve got an office now,” Ross said.
Strop chucked recounting the interaction.
“It was a little weird in the beginning seeing him sitting in that office,” the Cubs reliever said.
Sitting at a picnic table outside of the Cubs main practice field in Mesa, Arizona, Strop added how happy he was to be playing for Ross. And how happy he was to be back with the team he spent the most successful years of his MLB career with and won a World Series with.
“It’s always fun when you go home,” he said.
The Cubs re-signed Strop in February, and he joined spring training camp this past weekend. Strop said he had similar offers from other teams – a minor-league deal with a spring training invitation.
“If I have the same offer as here, I don’t even have to think about it,” Strop said. “I’m right back here.”
Strop’s first Chicago stint began in 2013, when the Orioles traded him and starting pitcher Jake Arrieta to the Cubs for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman. Strop seemed to flip a switch, posting a 7.25 ERA in the first half of the season with the Orioles and a 2.83 ERA in the second half with the Cubs.
He became one of the most consistent relievers in Cubs history. But lower-body injuries have plagued him the past couple years. As Strop has battled injury, his ERA has risen, and his velocity has declined.
“When you go through a lot of injuries, you don’t get time to develop that fastball velocity,” he said. “You’re taking care of other stuff. And throwing off the mound, you’re a little bit afraid of getting hurt in the game. That could be the (reason) your velocity goes down.”
Strop left for Cincinnati in free agency ahead of the 2020 season. But the Reds released him at the end of August.
The Cubs picked him up on a minor-league deal soon after. While working back from a groin/hip injury, Strop stayed at the South Bend alternate site. When he realized he wasn’t going to return in time for the postseason, he went back home.
According to Strop, he’s “100 percent” now.
“I don’t have any issue at all,” he said. “I’m not even going to the trainer’s room to do anything.”
Strop stretched more and lifted weights less this offseason, focusing on flexibility over strength. He said he lost 20 pounds, dropping from 245 to 225. He expects those changes to take some stress off his lower body and pay dividends over the course of a full season.
“I’m pretty sure this year I’m going to be able to handle at least 94, 95 (mph),” he said. “The more that I get on the mound, I think it’s going to be better for me and my velocity”
Strop threw a bullpen session on Wednesday. The next step is live batting practice. He said he thinks he’s in good shape to contribute come Opening Day. But of course, he doesn’t set the Opening Day roster.
“The only thing I can control is, just come out there and compete whenever I have the ball,” he said, “and show them and prove that I’m healthy and I’m the same Pedro Strop that was here a couple years ago.”
Gordon Wittenmyer contributed to the reporting of this story.