DENVER -- For a club with one of the highest bullpen ERAs in the Majors, Pedro Strop has been a savior for the Cubs.
Strop got the final two outs of the eighth Friday with runners on first and second, the leftovers of Jeff Samardzija's otherwise stellar start, to preserve the Cubs' lead in an eventual 3-1 win. It was Strop's eighth consecutive scoreless appearance (6 2/3 innings), a streak dating to July 4, when he debuted for the Cubs after a trade with Baltimore.
"It helps when you have a guy like Strop and a guy that can come in and do what he did last night with his slider and velocity," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "You turn into not just outs, but a team not being able to move runners up and add on the one run when a guy can strike guys out with his stuff."
Early-season struggles in Baltimore gave Strop a 7.25 ERA before his move to the National League.
Sveum said Strop is a candidate to share ninth-inning duties with closer Kevin Gregg. Strop has no saves this year, but in the manager's eyes, he has the right arsenal to at least see some time pitching in the ninth.
"Those are the kind of guys you want to throw out there, a guy that ... has a good time when he's on the mound, not scared of anything," Sveum said. "It's just a nice asset to have."
Strop started his career in the Rockies organization. Signed by Colorado in 2002, he played for the Rockies' Class A and Double-A affiliates before moving to Texas and then Baltimore.
Strop was initially projected as a shortstop with the Rockies before he transitioned to the mound, a move Rockies manager Walt Weiss, who worked with him in the Minors, was not so sure of at the time.
"When they converted him to pitcher, I was like, 'I don't know, man,'" Weiss said. "But he struggled at hitting and tried to switch-hit. He was a good looking shortstop."
Garza impresses teammates as trade talks intensify
DENVER -- The rumors are swirling, the potential destinations changing by the day, but Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza is still following his usual routine.
Garza, one of the biggest names on the trading block, has impressed coaches and teammates with his ability to remove himself from a mentally challenging situation. A regular in Cubs manager Dale Sveum's office, the conversations between Garza and his skipper have followed their typical path, everything but trade rumors filling the air.
"He's been the ultimate pro about everything," Sveum said. "It's a strange thing for anybody to be a part of when you're the most elite starting pitcher on the [trade market]. When people are starting trade talks and everything, and you're that guy, it's not an everyday, normal atmosphere. It's not real fun coming to the park knowing today could be the day.
"So he's handled it extremely well, obviously, by his performance on the mound."
The A's are latest rumored suitors for the 29-year-old righty after a deal with the Rangers hit at least a temporary snag Friday. Garza has become a prized piece after going 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA over his last six stars.
And while it would be a major upset if Garza is still in a Cubs uniform after the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Sveum once again pointed out that a significant portion of trade talks never come to fruition.
Often overlooked in the business-first mold of professional baseball is the personal toll a mid-season move could take on a player. That Garza has kept his cool while balancing those issues stands out to Chicago starter Jeff Samardzija.
"You're dealing with a family too, so he knows if something happens, he's got to uproot his family and move on," Samardzija said Friday night. "So to come every day and still work hard and do his work for this team speaks volumes about the guy."
And Samardzija has not given up all hope that the Cubs, who have won seven of 10, might be able to hold onto Garza for the rest of the year.
"If he does get moved, the team that gets him is getting one heck of a pitcher, one heck of a guy too," he said. "Maybe things will fall through and he'll just get to stick around with us the rest of the year."
Prospect Lake could play way into long-term role
DENVER -- With his first big league game under his belt, Junior Lake has already shown enough potential to at least warrant discussion of becoming an everyday piece of the Cubs' lineup.
Though Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Friday that the Cubs' ninth-ranked prospect is expected to be a temporary fill-in for injured center fielder David DeJesus, if he can string together more games like his 3-for-4 debut -- which included a double, two singles and a stolen base -- Lake could turn into a more permanent fixture.
Asked what Lake would need to do to secure a long-term spot with the club, Sveum referenced the remainder of the Cubs' series in Colorado against right-handers Juan Nicasio and Tyler Chatwood.
"He's going to get a chance to face three lefties in Arizona [starting Monday]," Sveum said. "But I think the tell-tale will be how he handles the Major League right-handed pitchers, sliders and all that. There's got to be a point if a guy's doing well, that's just the way it is, you keep him and you find somewhere to play him."
Athletic, speedy and young, Lake is an infielder by trade, but versatile enough to man the outfield, where he started the first two games at Coors Field in center. If he keeps producing for a team badly in need of an offensive spark, Sveum will find a way to work him into the lineup.
"If it's one position or it's third base and shortstop and right field, left field, give [Alfonso Soriano] the day off," Sveum said. "There's all kinds of options there -- because he's such a good athlete -- to get his ability in the lineup.
• If Garza is out of the Cubs' rotation soon, Sveum said Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley would be two of the top candidates to assume Garza's place in the rotation. Rusin and Raley, both lefties, each have limited experience with the Cubs this year and have spent most of the year with Triple-A Iowa.
• Samardzija didn't exactly leg out his groundouts at the plate Friday night, but Sveum said he's fine with that and would rather avoid the risk of a valuable piece of the rotation getting injured out of the batter's box.
"You want them to be on base and you want them to hit and drive runs in. But that next inning, the history of the game is just not very good for pitchers who have been on the bases or have exerted themselves running the bases," Sveum said." Their heart rate just gets to another level."
Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.