Earlier today, we checked in on Kyle Schwarber’s rehab process, and learned that things have been progressing well. Although there’s no shot at a surprise return this October, Schwarber may soon participate in one of the more competitive Winter Ball leagues – which is great news!
Now, we’ll shift our attention to another (positive) injury/rehab update, this time on someone with far more serious implications on the 2016 regular (and post) season.
Per Cubs.com, right-handed reliever Pedro Strop threw a simulated relief appearance yesterday at Wrigley Field and may come off the disabled list as soon as this weekend’s series against the Cardinals. That would give him plenty of time to ramp up before the NLDS and would put the Cubs’ three-headed, bullpen monster of Strop, Hector Rondon, and Aroldis Chapman back together in time for the playoffs.
Strop, you’ll recall, has been on the disabled list since August 11, after a left-knee meniscus tear required immediate surgery and rehab. At one point, he was going to be back much sooner than expected, but a groin injury set him back, and the Cubs were forced to pump the breaks.
But all’s well that ends well, and it looks he can be back as soon as Friday.
“He’s going to pitch on Friday,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, “and then we have different days planned out for him after that.” After his simulated relief appearance on Tuesday afternoon went well, the Cubs are expected to reinstate Strop from the disabled list this Friday against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. From there the plan, according to Strop, is to notch five appearances in relief before the playoffs. He considers that “plenty of time” to do his thing and inspire confidence with the coaching staff.
The simulated relief appearance included roughly 20 pitches – with the only ball actually hit being an Albert Almora Jr. grounder to second base. But it wasn’t all about pitching. The Cubs tested Strop’s mobility on the mound as well. Fortunately, everything looked good and Maddon suggested that there is absolutely nothing holding him back. Everything from here on out is about looking sharp and actually performing.
Which is something Strop has not struggled with in 2016.
Before heading to the disabled list near the middle of August, Strop had put together quite the season. Through 43.2 innings pitched, he maintained a 2.89 ERA, with peripherals that suggested he was even better (2.86 FIP, 2.59 xFIP). His 32.4% strikeout rate was the best of his seven-year Major League career, as was his 7.5% walk rate. Batters were hitting just .166 AVG off Strop, and his groundball rate spiked up to 59.6% – his highest mark since 2012. His soft hit rate (20.8%) is up over last year, and his hard hit rate (23.8%) is way down. There are a million ways to slice it, and they all suggest Strop has been dominant in 2016.
The Cubs will need him in the playoffs. Luckily, it seems that he’s on his way back.