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Pedro Strop throws off the mound for the first time

With just days left in their quest to win another division title, the Chicago Cubs received some much-needed good news on right-hander Pedro Strop.

As we know, Pedro Strop strained his hamstring while running out a ground ball against the Washington Nationals on Sept. 13. It was a very controversial decision to let Strop bat in that situation, definitely one of manager Joe Maddon‘s more questioned moves of the year. That rings especially true with closer Brandon Morrow out for the year.

Tommy La Stella was still on the bench and could have entered the game. Randy Rosario was already warming up in the bullpen. In short, it made pretty much no sense at all.

It happened. It’s over. And here we are. Clinging to a slim half-game division lead with five games to go. The Cubs need Strop in the back of their bullpen. There is no way around it. He’s arguably been the most reliable reliever all season.

Since taking over the closer position for Morrow, Strop boasts a 1.77 ERA in 20 1/3 innings. That’s production the bullpen needs – especially when every game is, at this point, a must-win.

Steps in the right direction

According to Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey in an interview on 670 The Score Wednesday morning, Strop threw off the mound Tuesday before the Cubs matchup with the Pirates.

While it was not an official bullpen session (the catcher moved in so the throws weren’t as long), the initial reaction seems overwhelmingly positive. Hamstring injuries can sideline guys for a good amount of time, so the fact he’s already on the mound bodes well for Chicago. To see he’s already throwing off the mound at the very least provides a sense of optimism moving forward in terms of how he affects any potential postseason roster.

We’re still not sure if Strop will be able to pitch over the last five games of the season, but he could be a factor in October. It’s more likely he doesn’t return until the NL Wild Card game, if that is the case. The Cubs prefer it to be in the Division Series, but time will answer that question.

The Cubs magic number sits at five. While it’s already hard enough to cheer for the St. Louis Cardinals while the Brewers are in town, it’s almost worse watching the Cubs’ offense the last two days against the Pirates.

Strop might make an appearance this weekend, but I’d think it’d be in a low-leverage situation based on missed time. Considering there have been no low-leverage innings for majority of September, I doubt we see him at all.

If the Cardinals lose tonight, the Cubs clinch a playoff spot and that’s wonderful but the Cubs need to get back in the win column to hold the division lead.

Next: Chavez stepping up in absence of Strop, Morrow

I don’t think Chicago would rush Strop back for the Wild Card game but Cubs fans would feel a bit more comfortable in that game with him rather than without him. First things first, let’s see where the team lands when the book closes on the regular season.



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