Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS BEAT - Brian Sandalow

One of the most pop­u­lar and im­por­tant mem­bers of the Cubs’ bullpen over the last seven sea­sons is back in the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple re­ports, Pe­dro Strop agreed to re­turn to the Cubs. Strop, who will report to South Bend, spent 2013-19 with the team, com­pil­ing a 2.90 ERA.

Over the off­sea­son, he agreed to a one-year deal with the Reds. But he had a 3.86 ERA in four ap­pear­ances be­fore go­ing on the 10-day in­jured list Aug. 11 with a right groin strain. He was des­ig­nated for as­sign­ment Aug. 26 be­fore get­ting his re­lease Wednes­day.

Af­ter be­ing cut loose, Strop was also ru­mored to be head­ing to the White Sox.

The Cubs orig­i­nally ac­quired him from the Ori­oles in 2013 as part of the trade that also brought Jake Ar­ri­eta. From 2013 to 2018, Strop never had an ERA higher than 2.91. But last sea­son, his ERA bal­looned to 4.97 in 50 ap­pear­ances.

Sch­war­ber at the top

With Ian Happ out of the start­ing lineup, Cubs man­ager David Ross ex­plained what he liked about hav­ing Kyle Sch­war­ber lead off Fri­day’s se­ries opener against the Car­di­nals.

“All of the suc­cess he’s had in that spot,” Ross said. “No, I’m just kid­ding.”

Fri­day was Sch­war­ber’s first time bat­ting lead­off this sea­son; en­ter­ing the game, he was a ca­reer .215 hit­ter there. In 2017, Sch­war­ber hit just .190 bat­ting first. Last year, he strug­gled to a .229 av­er­age in the No. 1 slot.

Af­ter laugh­ing at his joke, Ross ex­plained the de­ci­sion. “I like Sch­warbs — he’s been one of our best hit­ters,” Ross said. “I love his at­bats. I love him at the top. He’s go­ing to set the tone for us . . . with Hap­per out. I have a ton of con­fi­dence in him. It looked good to me on pa­per, and [he’s] some­body that I feel like is go­ing to set our tone and bring some dam­age with some on-base. I like him up there as close to the top as we can get him.”

Hey­ward’s honor

Right fielder Ja­son Hey­ward was named the Cubs’ nom­i­nee for the 2020 Roberto Cle­mente Award on Thurs­day. He has been in­volved with Fu­ture Ties, a South Side non-profit that sup­ports low-in­come fam­i­lies. Ad­di­tion­ally, he has do­nated $300,000 to non-prof­its ad­dress­ing in­equities dur­ing the pan­demic, as well as $95,000 to Cubs team and player char­i­ties. Hey­ward said it’s “huge” to give back. “We’re not seek­ing the spot­light, but it’s great to bring some aware­ness and kind of re­ward some peo­ple who are do­ing a lot of hard work be­hind the scenes — espe­cially when we’re talk­ing about the COVID stuff peo­ple have been deal­ing with all year in this coun­try and ob­vi­ously across the world,” Hey­ward said. “In the city of Chicago right here, home for us, a lot of peo­ple are do­ing a lot of good things to keep us afloat.

“Talk­ing about the West Side of Chicago, the South Side of Chicago, the bat­tles that are go­ing on there, it’s not right for us to com­plain and talk about how many deaths there are and then not go do some­thing.”

Sat­ur­day’s starter

Ad­bert Al­zo­lay will start Game 1 of Sat­ur­day’s dou­ble­header against the Car­di­nals. Game 2 will be han­dled by the bullpen. ✶


Will­son Con­tr­eras hits a two-run sin­gle in the first in­ning Fri­day night against the Car­di­nals.

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