By Meghan Montemurro
CHICAGO – Kevin Gregg stood in front of his locker in the Cubs’ clubhouse and waited for the inevitable questions.
Gregg made it clear he wasn’t interested in rehashing Friday’s comments when he criticized manager Dale Sveum and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein for considering using reliever Pedro Strop in save situations during the final two weeks of the season.
In fact, Gregg spent only one minute before the Cubs’ game Saturday against the Braves discussing the incident, which prompted a meeting with Epstein and Sveum in the manager’s office where he eventually apologized for his comments.
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“I think the situation’s over,” Gregg said. “We can’t change the past, but going forward, forget about it.”
Gregg’s blunt comments nearly cost him his job. Epstein planned to sleep on it before deciding if the closer would be released. However, Gregg said Epstein called him Friday night and informed him he would not be released.
“Why wouldn’t I be happy about that decision?” Gregg said. “As far as I’m concerned, and it sounds like as far as he’s concerned, it’s over.”
Gregg expects the self-created controversy will be a situation everyone can learn from. Although the 35 year old, who has recorded 32 saves this season, didn’t elaborate on what he learned, it will likely involve fewer critiques of the organization.
“I definitely learned some things from it,” Gregg said. “I hope they learned some things from it and I think it makes us all better baseball people and we move forward from there.”
Sveum took some blame for the miscommunication with Gregg but again reiterated Saturday he told Gregg that Strop would be given an opportunity to close.
“I can’t lie about that, it caught me completely off guard,” Sveum said of Gregg’s postgame comments after Friday’s loss to the Braves in which Gregg blew the save. “Unfortunately it got miscommunicated and obviously turned into a mess. It’s all fixed now. Accept apologies and move on.”
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Sveum appreciates Gregg’s competitiveness and desire to be out there every game, and it’s a trait he wants in all his players. But Sveum didn’t really agree with Gregg’s assessment that the final eight games are not a good measuring tool as to whether Strop is capable of closing. Before Saturday’s game, Sveum said he did not know who he would use as closer if needed, explaining the decision would be made based on matchups.
“Obviously we all know this is a stressful job closing,” Sveum said. “You have to be durable to do it so there’s a lot more that goes into it than getting one opportunity in the last 10 days or two opportunities to make a complete judgment but it’s more of how you’re seeing the heart rate work trying to get the last three outs.”
Whether Gregg returns next season is unclear – though this incident certainly doesn’t help him – but ideally the Cubs will have a veteran reliever as part of the back-end of their bullpen, particularly if Strop is the closer in 2014. In a perfect world, Sveum said, an experienced reliever could help Strop. However, Sveum also cautioned that this scenario, one with Strop closing next season, is only speculation and the incident with Gregg was “a little blown out of proportion.”
“That’s a perfect world, there’s no question about it,” Sveum said. “But this guy has already pitched in big games and done things himself. He’s always a happy guy so (Strop) has all the intangibles to possible do it.”