Stroman on evolving roster: ‘We can compete right now'

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MESA, Ariz. — Newly signed Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman threw his first bullpen session of the spring to newly signed Cubs catcher Yan Gomes on Saturday.

And regardless of what the front office adds after agreeing Friday to terms with new Cubs shortstop Andrelton Simmons, Stroman already seems in mid-spring optimist form.

Asked about whether his signing just before the lockout and other signings might suggest more this spring, he said, “I think anyone would love that. I’m not sure of their direction.”

Then added: “I think with the group that we have we can compete right now.”

Whether the Cardinals and Brewers will have much to say about that by April, the Cubs’ rotation already might be stronger than the rotation the Cubs opened 2021 with — given the additions of Stroman and Wade Miley to returning Opening Day starter Kyle Hendricks.

The Cubs are working on adding to the back-end depth that for now includes Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele, Alec Mills and Keegan Thompson.

“I think we’re great, man,” said Stroman of the veteran-youth mix. “Me, Hendricks, Wade, I think we can carry it. And then I think we have tremendous upside from the young guys.

“You just never know when some of these guys can turn it on and have their best career years,” he said. “Baseball’s like that. You can put in a lot of work, you can find a new pitch, everything can kind of click. So I’m looking forward to seeing these guys perform.”

Hendricks and Stroman already have thrown their first spring bullpen sessions for the staff, just ahead of Monday’s first official camp workouts. And starters will have just enough time during the abbreviated spring schedule for four starts before April 7 openers.

Stroman said that’s enough time to get ready, if only because, “We have to make it work….You’ve got to adapt.”

Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy: “This is going to be a weird spring. … We’ve got to be really calculated about how to ramp this thing up.”

And who knows what the roster will look like by Monday, never mind April. The Cubs might spend most of the shortened spring trying to add players.

“It’s an exciting group, a young group,” Stroman said, “and obviously when you add pieces, it can always be better. I don’t think we need pieces, but if we add pieces, it can always help the squad.”

For now, Hottovy says, he’s impressed with his first look at Stroman — who said his arm and body feel “great” after finishing among the league leaders in innings (179) a year after opting out of the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

Anybody following the Cubs in 2020 after the summer ramp-up after the three-month pandemic shutdown remembers Kyle Hendricks’ complete game in that year’s season opener.

Hendricks looked good in his bullpen session this time around, too.

Which brings up the obvious next question: Who’s this year’s Opening Day starter now that they have more than one choice again?

“That’s a great question,” Hottovy said. “Let’s just get there healthy.”

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