Pedro Strop feels like he’s ‘home’ with Cubs
MESA, Ariz. — Pedro Strop had one of the easiest decisions of his professional life this winter.
He received multiple offers of the same variety in free agency — a minor-league deal with an invite to MLB camp. But because the Cubs had that same offer on the table, it was settled.
“I didn’t even have to think about it,” Strop said, flashing his patented smile.
Strop was with the Cubs midway through last season, signing a minor-league deal and working out at the alternate site in South Bend. He initially signed with the Cincinnati Reds ahead of 2020 but was limited to just 4 appearances due to a hip/groin injury and was released Aug. 31.
Now he’s back with the Cubs, where he was one of the most reliable high-leverage relievers in baseball for six years.
“Man, it’s always fun when you go home,” he said. “That’s what I consider the Cubs — my home. … I don’t have any words to describe how happy I am right now.”
Even before 2020, Strop has dealt with lower body issues. He injured both of his hamstrings at various points at the tail end of his Cubs career – first in September 2018 running the bases and then again early in the 2019 season.
Now 35, he vowed to put those types of issues in the past and lost 20 pounds this winter by eating right and working out in a different way. He’s lifting less and stretching more in an effort to be more flexible.
Strop said he hasn’t even been in the training room at Cubs camp and feels 100% right now.
His average velocity dipped to 92.1 mph in 2020 after sitting 95-97 mph for his entire career prior to 2019. He’s not expecting to pitch in the upper-90s anymore but believes a return to health can pay dividends on the radar gun.
“When you’re going through a lot of injuries, you don’t get time to develop that fastball velocity,” Strop said. “You’re taking care of other stuff. Throwing off the mound, I was a little bit afraid of getting hurt again so that could be the fact that your velocity goes down.
“But I’m pretty sure that this year, I’m going to be able to handle at least 94-95. … Right now, I don’t even know how hard I’m throwing, but the most important thing for me is just the way I feel right now. I feel healthy and I’m pretty sure the velocity is going to come. I’m not going to be be throwing 98 or 97, but I’m pretty sure if I’m 94-95, I can pitch there really well and use my secondary pitch. My slider is in good shape.”
Strop is competing against a long list of names for a spot in the Opening Day bullpen and will throw a live bullpen session against Cubs hitters in the next couple days with a game appearance coming after that.
He knows it’s out of his control whether he breaks camp with the big-league team and he’s focused only on trying to get ready for the start of the regular season.
Strop also learned quite a bit about how he can help himself out in the free agency process in the future.
In February, he posted a video where he was pitching to his 12-year-old son, Royelny, who hit a home run in the clip:
Strop joked he sent the video to Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer for future recruiting.
“Somebody told me something funny: ‘You know why you didn’t sign quicker? Because you posted a video of your son taking you deep.'” Strop said, laughing. “I think that’s true, man. I didn’t think about it.
“But that day I was so excited. That’s the first time I’ve ever been happy to give up a hit like that.”