Cubs’ Marcus Stroman finishes up-and-down 1st half on high note

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Cubs’ Stroman finishes up-and-down 1st half on high note originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

With Marcus Stroman’s pitch count sitting nearing 80 entering the fifth inning Saturday, the Cubs coaching staff let him know he was likely nearing the end of his outing.

Stroman, who recently missed about a month with shoulder inflammation, was making his second start since coming off the 15-day injured list last week, facing his former team, the Mets, in the first game of a doubleheader.

The right-hander struck out Travis Jankowski on five pitches to open the fifth.

It was a nice finish to Stroman's second consecutive promising outing since returning from the IL. He held the NL East leaders to one run, one hit and two walks in 4 1/3 innings, striking out six.

Last weekend, he held the Dodgers scoreless in four innings in his return.

“Felt pretty good,” Stroman said after the Cubs’ 2-1 extra-inning loss. “Thought it was a positive step in the right direction coming off the IL.

“Thought I was locked in mechanically, thought the action on my pitches was exactly where I wanted it to be. Just had a little high of a pitch count. Overall, I thought it felt pretty good.”

Stroman, the Cubs’ key offseason acquisition who signed a three-year deal, had an up-and-down first half of 2022.

“We haven’t seen his best yet, for sure,” manager David Ross said before the game. “I don't think he's been able to be out there enough, really, to see that, the way the whole start of the season went with the spring training and him getting hurt.”

Stroman has talked this season about struggling to find his rhythm after the shortened spring training following MLB’s lockout, and in April posted a 6.98 ERA in four starts.

He had a strong May (1.50 ERA, four outings) that included a pair of scoreless seven-inning performances but missed three weeks due to a bout with COVID-19.

He said his shoulder never felt right after that, and after a rough outing to open June, went on the IL.

His outings against the Dodgers and Mets have been promising as he builds back up. And even with the ups and downs this season, he’s had strong performances reflective of the pitcher he’s been in his career.

All while remaining consistent in who he is around the team.

“As far as how he comes in, his work ethic, the human being, [he’s] very consistent, very positive guy, good energy around,” Ross said. “Same thing I saw when I first met him. He's been very consistent that way.”

Stroman said he's going to throw a bullpen during the All-Star break. He said he’s headed in the right direction entering the second half and is where he wants to be mechanically.

What’s the next step for him after the break?

“No step, just stay present and continue to do what I've been doing,” Stroman said. “I really don't look forward to tomorrow or think about yesterday.

"So just staying very in tune with the day, staying present and doing everything I can to make sure that my next outing will be even better."

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