ST. LOUIS – There’s a chance you could see Pedro Strop pointing to the sky and beating his chest as “Go Cubs Go” plays over the sound system at Wrigley Field next season.
The Cubs may have already found their 2014 closer in Strop, who hasn’t allowed a run in 17 of his 18 appearances since coming over from the Baltimore Orioles in the Scott Feldman trade last month.
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“He seems to be able to handle the eighth inning just fine,” manager Dale Sveum said Sunday at Busch Stadium. “You just never know. That’s a long way away. Hopefully, you have seven closers out there.”
The Cubs had viewed Kyuji Fujikawa – who saved more than 200 games in Japan – as a core piece last winter when they signed him to a two-year, $9.5 million deal that contains a vesting/club option for 2015.
But the Cubs can’t build their bullpen around Fujikawa, who had Tommy John surgery in June and faces a long road back to the big leagues.
“The best-case scenario would probably be All-Star break maybe,” Sveum said. “That’s pretty wishful thinking. Everybody’s different with that surgery. Some guys are back in eight months. With some guys, it takes awhile. You just never know.”
The 28-year-old Strop – who started his career as a shortstop in the Colorado Rockies system – isn’t positioned to become a free agent until after the 2017 season. With that swing-and-miss stuff, he’s shown why he emerged as a dominant setup guy for Baltimore’s 93-win team last season, going 5-2 with a 2.44 ERA, 24 holds and three saves.
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The assumption was Strop would audition as the closer once the Cubs traded Kevin Gregg (25 saves). But no one met the asking price at the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
Strop may wind up saving some games in the season’s final seven weeks when Gregg is unavailable. But for now it won’t be a true showcase to see how Strop handles the ninth inning.
“I’m sure he’ll get a chance,” Sveum said, “but there’s no plans (for) putting him there just to see him.”