Injured Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel is progressing toward a return, but that won’t come until at least the weekend, Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com reports. The big-money in-season signing has been on the injured list with right elbow inflammation since Sept. 1, making him eligible to come back as early as Thursday. Kimbrel’s IL placement came on the heels of yet another disappointing performance, in which he yielded three earned runs on two hits (including a homer) in two-thirds of an inning. He’s one of the greatest closers ever, which is why the Cubs guaranteed him $43MM over three years, yet Kimbrel hasn’t resembled his dominant self this season. While the 31-year-old has converted 13 of 15 save opportunities, he owns a bloated 5.68 ERA with 12.32 K/9 against 5.21 BB/9, and has given up just under three HRs per nine across 19 innings of work.
- The Dodgers clinched their seventh straight NL West title Tuesday, but they’re also dealing with some unwelcome news: Outfielder Alex Verdugo isn’t nearing a return, per Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times. An oblique strain forced the rookie to the IL back on Aug. 6, but he suffered a back injury on a rehab assignment and will sit out “for at least a few days,” Castillo writes. Verdugo has been a valuable contributor this year, having slashed .294/.342/.475 with 2.2 fWAR in 377 plate appearances, but the loaded Dodgers have carried on fine without him thus far.
- Padres manager Andy Green isn’t willing to guarantee that banged up outfielder Hunter Renfroe will play again this season, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune relays. For now, Renfroe’s going to rest on account of right elbow and ankle problems. “Hunter has battled through a lot this second half,” said Green, who added, “There have been a number of days he was unavailable and we’ve managed not to talk about it.” We covered Renfroe’s significant second-half struggles earlier Tuesday, though it now seems possible health problems have been a major cause for his summer slump.
- Injuries have prevented Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker from taking a big league mound since April 2018, but he said Tuesday (via Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic) he’s still hoping to make an appearance this year. The 27-year-old sat out the majority of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and has dealt with shoulder troubles this season. However, he threw his first bullpen session in four months Tuesday and came out unscathed. Walker’s absence is among the reasons the Diamondbacks’ starting staff has been shaky this year, though the club has nonetheless stayed in the National League wild-card race.