According to a report from Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic, the Cubs have opted to hand the final bullpen spot to Eddie Butler. There was some thought that Pedro Strop could start the season on the DL due to a calf issue that kept him out through most of spring training, but that won’t be necessary.
The Athletic has learned that Pedro Strop will start the season with the team, no need for a DL stint. Eddie Butler gets the nod over Bass, Hancock and others for the final spot in the Cubs bullpen.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) March 28, 2018
Strop looked to be in good shape and had his normal velocity in limited action, which is a good sign. And given the relatively weak opponents to open the season, the Cubs can probably afford to ease him back into game action anyway.
Butler has been the favorite to make the roster all along, mainly due to his past experience as a starter and the fact that he’s out of minor league options. The Cubs have spoken very highly of Anthony Bass, though, and Justin Hancock had looked good at times and does have the ability to go multiple innings.
Given Joe Maddon’s desire to ramp up his starters’ innings over time, it makes sense to carry another long man in addition to Mike Montgomery. Butler’s issues with finding the strike zone and missing bats have been well documented, but he’s a known commodity and the Cubs would rather roster him than face the prospect of losing him for next to nothing.
Hancock has no major league experience and can still benefit from a little more work in the minors, while Bass doesn’t really have the kind of stuff that makes you stand up and take notice. Both could provide solid depth, so we may not have heard the last of them. Unlike the leadoff role, this wasn’t really a battle that anyone told hold of and ran away with, it was more just a battle of attrition.
In the end, we’re likely to see a great deal of turnover at that spot as the year goes on. Whether due to injury, poor performance, or the need for a fresh arm, the back end of the ‘pen is often a revolving door.
But the real key is that the roster is set and the Cubs are ready for real baseball.