WEDNESDAY: The Cubs expect Kimbrel to return Thursday or Friday, according to Maddon (via Wittenmyer).
MONDAY: Winners of five consecutive games, the Cubs have sizzled over the past several days as they attempt to earn their fifth straight playoff berth. A few of those victories came in blowout fashion, which means Chicago has largely been able to get by without the services of injured closer Craig Kimbrel. The club probably won’t be able to cruise to all of its wins over the next couple weeks, though, making it imperative for Kimbrel to return. It appears that’s close to happening, as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and manager Joe Maddon suggested Monday that Kimbrel could be back for the Cubs’ crucial series against the division-rival Cardinals this weekend, per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. In the meantime, he’ll throw a simulated game Tuesday.
The Cubs have been sans Kimbrel since he landed on the injured list Sept. 5 (retroactive to Sept. 1) with right elbow inflammation. The normally stellar Kimbrel had endured a rough season even before then, as he surrendered 12 earned runs on 18 hits and 11 walks (with 26 strikeouts) over 19 innings.
The 5.68 ERA, 6.64 FIP, 5.21 BB/9 and 2.84 HR/9 Kimbrel have posted this year aren’t the type of numbers the Cubs had in mind when they signed the 31-year-old to a three-year, $43MM guarantee in June, thus ending a long standoff in free agency between him and the league. At that point, Kimbrel was coming off yet another more-than-respectable season. The former Brave, Padre and Red Sox entered 2019 with a 2.04 ERA/2.13 FIP, 14.58 K/9, 3.52 BB/9 and a .67 HR/9 across 551 2/3 lifetime frames.
With the Cubs just a game up on the Brewers for the NL’s second wild-card spot and two back of the Cards in the NL Central, it would be a boon for a wobbly bullpen if Kimbrel were to revisit his vintage form as September nears a conclusion. Otherwise, more blowups from the Cubs’ prized summer signing down the stretch could help lead to a premature ending to their season.