By Bruce Levine-
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — The battle for bullpen roles are a big part of the spring training season for the Chicago Cubs. Flame-thrower Pedro Strop will be competing with his fellow teammates for the roles backing up closer Jose Veres.
Strop came to the Cubs with Jake Arrieta from Baltimore for Scott Feldman last July. Working in the seventh and eighth innings behind Kevin Gregg helped the young pitcher develop more confidence going into 2014.
“As a reliever looking at individual goals, you always want to be that guy (the closer),” Strop said. “Veres is our closer and a great teammate, so I support him and concentrate on the job they give me every day the only way anyone else gets that role is if something bad happens to him. None of us want that.”
Strop has some stiff competition in the bullpen with big arm minor league pitchers forcing their way through the Cubs’ system.
“Strop has a little bit more experience,” catcher Welington Castillo said. “He seems much more relaxed and confident. Closer’ jobs are not easy, so with Veres being around it should be a big help to Strop and the other young bullpen guys.”
According to Cub personnel, both Strop and Arodys Vizcaino have been the most impressive bullpen arms in the early part of spring drills.
“We have some guys that have serious stuff here in this camp,” Castillo said. “I love the way they are working. Strop and Vizcaino have the ability to contribute to our team this season.”
Big arms are what the Cubs’ front office has tried to acquire in trades the last two years. That hard work and patience may pay off this season with a bullpen that can hold leads for the evolving starting rotation.