The Cubs have a night game on Monday, with their off day Tuesday, so it’ll be a good stretch before we have to worry about their in-game activities again. Before their Spring Training game against the Reds, though, we saw some good news about the ailing Pedro Strop:
Strop threw 16 of 18 pitches for strikes in modified minor league game Vs. A’s minor leaguers.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) March 19, 2018
Pedro Strop (calf) pitched in minor league affair just now. Got through it in fine fashion. Sched to throw in Cactus League game this Thursday
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) March 19, 2018
Now that he’s in game action again, and confident that he can contribute by Opening Day, the Cubs should have their solid-on-paper bullpen intact to back up the tremendous starting rotation. I suppose the only thing to decide is who the eighth bullpen guy is, and you can read my thoughts in the previous link.
This bit is also very interesting:
#Cubs debating whether to go with 7 or 8 relievers. If 7, might be opening on bench for someone like Bourjos
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 19, 2018
The assumption, given the versatility in the position player corps and how the Cubs and Joe Maddon enjoy matching up, was that they would do what they’ve done over the past couple seasons in using the extra pitcher. I do believe that they will continue to do this, but there is time to debate this, so maybe Peter Bourjos can get a shot after all. There are roster considerations since Bourjos is a non-roster invitee, and there’s only one spot open on the roster. Of course, there are some fringe relievers the Cubs could try to outright to the minors or trade or just cut, but I don’t really see how they can make too many of those moves given the value of that depth and having to keep that spot open just in case they want Chris Gimenez to be the primary backup to Willson Contreras. I also don’t know if Bourjos has an opt-out if he doesn’t make the club out of spring, so there’s a risk that they’d lose that depth outfielder as well.
There are multiple players on the roster who can adequately play all three outfield spots, so it’s not like Bourjos is an absolute necessity. Joe Maddon will already have enough trouble shuffling playing time between all of his outfielders and bench guys, but pitchers can get tired or hurt, so it seems like the bullpen arm is more needed, especially if most of the relievers are used to only pitching one inning at a time.
My best guess is that the Cubs will try to keep Bourjos in Iowa as an emergency depth guy, use Gimenez as the backup catcher (which takes up the final roster spot), and have Eddie Butler as the final reliever now that they only need one instead of two if Strop is healthy. But do stay prepared for a surprise.
UPDATE 3/23 2:00 PM: More relief it is!
#Cubs Maddon says they'll go with 8 relievers
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 23, 2018
Now we wait to see if Pedro Strop is indeed healthy and whether they’ll want to carry Eddie Butler or someone else.