The Cubs signed the superstar closer earlier this month, but Craig Kimbrel is finally heading to a big league roster to make his 2019 season debut.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon announced that seven-time All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel was “already on his way” to Wrigley Field after wrapping up a four-game stint in Des Moines, IA with the Cubs Triple-A affiliate and extended Spring Training in Arizona before that.
Kimbrel posted a 2.25 ERA with four strikeouts in 3.2 IP and threw on back-to-back days Friday and Saturday with no issue. Kimbrel is expected to be added to the 25-man MLB roster Thursday morning, giving time for the Cubs to make their final decision with the roster.
“Out of respect for people that might be impacted, you don’t want to say too much too soon. So, we’re still trying to put this all together and figure it out, absolutely,” said Maddon.
Of course, with Kimbrel being called up that means the Cubs will need to option down someone else, and while rookie Adbert Alzolay has been excellent in his two outings for Chicago thus far, Maddon hinted at wanting to keep the 24-year-old starter on a schedule.
“Of course you want to keep him on a schedule. He can do it here. He might have to do it somewhere else, but yes, you want to. But, you also have to be mindful of the innings that he’s pitching this year based on what kind of jump you want him to endure this year. So, there’s a lot of different components to these discussions about him, specifically.
With Kimbrel anchoring the back end of the bullpen, the Cubs are hoping to shift players like Pedro Strop and Steve Cishek back into roles they’re more familiar with. Though Maddon did confirm earlier this week that Kimbrel will just handle getting the final three outs of the game, so it’s likely others will be called upon to close for Chicago this season.
The Cubs signed reliever Brandon Morrow last season to be their closer but he hasn’t pitched since June of last season, dealing with shoulder issues throughout that time. But the 34-year-old reliever is expected to return sometime after the All-Star break, giving the Cubs another arm that can touch triple-digits alongside Kimbrel.
Having Kimbrel doesn’t solve all the Cubs’ issues in the bullpen, but it does make things much easier for Maddon in tight games late.