The Cubs bullpen situation had been dicey long before Pedro Strop pulled his hamstring running the bases. I wondered in early September if the long time setup man had what it takes to close in the postseason after it became clear that Brandon Morrow would not be back in 2018. However, I was pretty excited for the possibility. As Al had noted the month before, Strop is one of the best relievers in Cubs history and I loved the idea of him rising to the occasion to save key games during an injury riddled 2018 season.
When he was injured I was pretty devastated. It seemed like one more problem for the Cubs to deal with, one more unfair moment for one of my favorite Cubs, one more challenge in an unrelenting schedule.
And then, improbably, the night before the wild card game, Strop insisted he was healthy and ready to pitch. I joined most of Cubs Twitter in shock and hope:
Frankly I felt like a child on Christmas morning as I waited for the wild card roster to be released. I felt like if Strop was on it, he might not even need to pitch. His mere presence might be enough to jump start the Cubs offense. I mean he has his own themed road trips and stares down Anthony Rizzo during mound visits:
And sure enough, there he was when the wild card roster came out. In the bullpen. And I sort of wanted to dance around just like they do after Cubs home runs. It felt like an October Cubs miracle, I couldn’t believe he was well enough to pitch.
#Cubs put Pedro Strop on their wild-card roster and will also have Kyle Hendricks and Cole Hamels available out of the bullpen tonight at Wrigley Field. Designated pinch-runner Terrance Gore will also be active if they need to manufacture a run against Colorado.— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) October 2, 2018
It turns out I was right. Somehow, some way Pedro Strop managed to pull off a scoreless 16-pitch ninth inning against the heart of the Rockies lineup. He got Nolan Arenado and Ian Desmond to strike out. He looked so good that for a few innings I just knew the Cubs were going to walk off the Rockies and Strop was going to be the hero of the postseason.
What I didn’t know was that Strop was putting on one of the gutsiest performances I’ve seen from a Cubs pitcher in years. He wasn’t miraculously healed. He was faking it, and pitching like a closer through a hamstring injury, in severe pain. Because he knew his team needed him last night. He also knew he couldn’t possibly have pitched into the next round:
Pedro Strop told me that he was in severe pain but feigned that he was fine so they wouldn't take him out of the game; told me he wouldn't have been available for the next round. https://t.co/JbBZiuUlmT— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) October 3, 2018
Pedro Strop was already one of the greatest Cubs relievers of all time. He was already a huge part of the heart and character of this team. He’s got a team option for $6.25 million for 2019 that the Cubs will almost certainly pick up. In fact, in yesterday’s press conference Theo indicated he’d love to keep Strop in the organization after he’s done playing:
Theo raves about Pedro Strop's toughness and leadership, saying he returned from a 4-to-6 week injury in about 2 weeks and hoping he stays in the #Cubs organization after his playing career is over.— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) October 3, 2018
I couldn’t agree with Theo more. With that performance in the wild card game, Strop rises to the status of a Cubs legend: #HatsLeft in 2019 and beyond.