CHICAGO -- There was a time, after the Chicago Cubs acquired him in 2013, when reliever Pedro Strop was thought of as a possible closer-in-waiting. The full-time job never materialized, but he still gets his chances, including a big one in a 2-1 Cubs win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday afternoon.
"Really impressed," manager Joe Maddon said after the game. "Strike throwing. He was out there throwing strikes with his fastball, his sinker and his slider. He looked like he was totally in control of his emotions."
He needed to be in control, simply because a lazy, one-out popup to right field by Paul Goldschmidt fell in for a double in the ninth with one out when Jason Heyward lost the ball in the sun. The Diamondbacks thought they were in business, with the tying run at second.
Not so fast.
"That's the guy you want out there [on the mound]," center fielder Albert Almora Jr. stated. "He can be awkward with his delivery but has plus stuff. You're not worried about him because you know he's not worried."
"He's always fun," Almora said. "Always with a smile on his face."
Why is this one save important for the Cubs? As they scour the trade market for relief help, they'll need to look to within as well, as oft-injured closer Brandon Morrow remains out with his latest ailment, a biceps injury.
They'll need guys who won't be rattled in the ninth inning -- widely known as a different animal than the innings that come before it. Strop is as good an option as any on the Cubs' current roster. On a team whose relief staff has issued the second-most walks in the league, Strop has been the most reliable.
He's given up just 16 free passes in 42 innings. That, and his 2.57 ERA, will work just fine in one-run affairs like Wednesday's game. The longest-tenured Cubs reliever is as valuable as ever, considering the DL stints of Morrow and setup man Carl Edwards Jr. Strop and Steve Cishek have picked up the slack left behind by others.
"He always has the same attitude, no matter what," Almora said. "That's the guy you want out there."
For now, it's the guy the Cubs might have to have out there, as a taxed bullpen will rely on the veteran even more.