Cubs' Stroman thinks MLB pitchers are suffering from short spring
After a second solid start coming back from the injured list, Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman talked about staying in the present.
That meant he claimed not to care about facing the New York Mets, his former team, on Saturday. But he also couldn't help thinking back a few months and how the shortened spring training might have affected the health of major-league pitchers.
"It's been tough," Stroman said. "Kyle (Hendricks) is out for a bit, obviously Wade (Miley's) still on the IL. I think that's just a product of having a shortened spring training and guys getting rushed back into a 162 game season, which is incredibly difficult."
Stroman made it through 4⅓ innings, allowing 1 run, 1 hit and striking out six. But the Cubs had another extra-inning flub and lost to the Mets 2-1 in 11 innings in the first game of a doubleheader at Wrigley Field.
After David Robertson kept the Mets scoreless in the top of the 10th, Nelson Velazquez stole third base to put the winning run 90 feet away with nobody out. But Patrick Wisdom and P.J. Higgins struck out against Adam Ottovino, and third baseman Eduardo Escobar made a nice play to rob Christopher Morel, who made a poor choice to slide at first base.
It was another step in a disappointing journey for the Cubs, who dropped to 3-10 in extra-inning games. A healthier Stroman might have lifted the entire pitching staff.
"You see it all around the league. I hate it, seeing star guys who are supposed to be performing every day not having the ability to go out there," Stroman said. "I actually believe it's because of the shortened spring training, and that's extremely unfortunate.
"So I'm hoping everybody gets healthy, everyone can kind of take this all-star break to get their bodies right and everybody in the league comes out and had a better second half."
In his previous start, Stroman tossed four scoreless innings at Dodger Stadium, throwing 59 pitches. This time, he reached 83 and felt like he's found a rhythm on the mound. He thanked pitching coaches Tommy Hottovy and Daniel Moskos for helping him work out the kinks.
"Just thought I was locked in mechanically, felt the action on my pitches was exactly where I want it to be," Stroman said. "Just had a little high of a pitch count. Overall I felt pretty good. It's been a team effort from everyone in this clubhouse and I'm just thankful to have everybody around."
Cubs manager David Ross was ejected for the second straight game. This time he complained about a couple of strike calls in a Higgins at-bat in the second inning. It was Ross' fourth ejection of the season.
The first two runs of the game were products of perfect timing. Stroman walked Francisco Lindor to lead off the fourth inning, always a mistake with Pete Alonso up next. Sure enough, Alonso sent an RBI double to the ivy in right-center field.
In the bottom of the inning, Nico Hoerner hit into a force play, then stole second with two outs. On the very next pitch, Frank Schwindel singled past second base to send Hoerner home with the tying run.
The teams combined for just 9 total hits in the 11 innings. The Mets scored in the top of the 11th on a single by Lindor and sacrifice fly by Alonso. In the bottom of the frame, Mets closer Edwin Diaz struck out Rafael Ortega and Willson Contreras before Ian Happ grounded out on another nice defensive play by New York.
"You've got 3-1 count, man at third, nobody out. We've got to get that run in," Ross said of the Cubs' 10th. "We've got to figure out a way. That's been our Achilles' heel.
"We're in ballgames, I think we keep pointing to that. But figuring out a way to win ... using the whole field, making contact. We're just not very good at getting runners in with less than two outs and a runner on third."
• Before the game, the Cubs called up left-hander Steven Brault and optioned Mark Leiter Jr. to Iowa. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Matt Swarmer was designated for assignment, so he'll have to clear waivers before potentially rejoining the Iowa Cubs.
Brault, 30, spent six years with the Pirates, signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs in the spring, then missed three months with a left triceps strain. He made his Iowa debut on July 6.
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