He said he toyed with the two-seamer before, but struggled controlling it because of the movement it gets. He's still working on controlling the sinker — Strop has walked 18 batters in 34 innings (but allowed just 20 hits and has 29 strikeouts) — but it has contributed to a 69.8 ground-ball percentage (the league average is 44), giving him the ability to pitch out of any jam.
"We talk a lot about baseball and things," Johnson said. "He knows he can't just sit there and blow it by guys. He knows he's got to think. He can locate. When we got him, I really felt like we stole him from Texas. He has great composure. He's still learning a couple things, but stuff-wise he's got some of the best stuff in the game."
Strop finally feels confident and comfortable. He is always wearing a smile — and a cut-off Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-shirt — around the Orioles clubhouse. He also wears Ninja Turtle boxer shorts under his game pants every day. "They've just always been my favorite," he said of the cartoon characters.
But make no mistake, there is still that hunger from the tough days toiling in the minors that keeps Strop going.
"He doesn't seem to get comfortable in it," Showalter said. "You can tell there's a lot of drive in him and he'll have an outing where he doesn't give up a run but you can tell he's not happy with the stress it may have involved. He obviously has a really good arm.
"And if you look at some of the physical issues he's had — I mean this guy's got a pin in his elbow — he's got some things he's overcome to get to this point."