Craig Kimbrel is one step closer to joining the Cubs bullpen.
According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Kimbrel will join Triple-A Iowa and make his first appearance on Tuesday, against the Sacramento River Cats.
Craig Kimbrel is scheduled to leave the Cubs’ complex in Arizona, join the Triple-A Iowa club and make his first appearance on Tuesday in Sacramento.— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) June 16, 2019
While the Cubs officially signed him on June 7, Kimbrel has yet to pitch in actual games. The 31-year-old has been in a condensed spring training program at the Cubs' Arizona complex, throwing live batting practice on both Thursday and Saturday.
The Cubs haven't revealed an official timeline for Kimbrel to join the 25-man roster, as they are basing things off of how he feels. The expectation is he will pitch in about five games with Iowa before joining the Cubs. However, both Theo Epstein and Kimbrel acknowledged how the goal isn't to rush the closer back into MLB action.
"We're not gonna rush it," Epstein said. "It's gonna be tempting to get him here as soon as possible, but we're trying to plan this thing the right way so that he could be in a position to succeed not just immediately but in October. That's gonna be our guiding principle as we go."
"We sat down and put a gameplan together — something to work off of," Kimbrel said. "But at the end of the day, it's based off how I recover, how I get ready. This isn't about getting back on the field as fast as I can. This is about being the best that I can be in October and down the stretch and doing what I came here to do for this team."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.
There were some added stakes to Saturday night’s Cubs-Dodgers matchup. Darvish made his first start at Dodger Stadium since his infamous Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series, looking for a great effort in front of a fan base that had their up-and-downs in terms of their relationship with him. He (maybe) took a small jab at the Dodgers before the game had even started, telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't worried about being booed because “the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side.”
Yu Darvish told @dylanohernandez that "the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side." It was not. The #Cubs RHP heard resounding boos when he was introduced before game.— Mike DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) June 16, 2019
Well Dodgers faithful certainly got the message and made sure to let Darvish hear it.
Yu Darvish with a warm welcome in his return to Dodger Stadium.— Blake Harris (@BlakeHarrisTBLA) June 16, 2019
A loud collective “Yuuu” or boos? You be the judge...
Yes I know the correct answer. pic.twitter.com/waxvIQA4J0
However, Darvish got the last laugh on Saturday night. He pitched a stellar seven innings. Over those seven innings, Darvish gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and also notched 10 strikeouts.
10+ K starts by #Cubs pitchers this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 16, 2019
In 2018, they only had one (Quintana)
Darvish has been hitting his stride as of late, maintaining a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.
Joe Maddon on Yu Darvish: “When he really believes in himself and he has confidence in himself – he is one of the best pitchers in baseball.”— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) June 16, 2019
"This was really important in my life. I think now I can move forward. I pitched good here." -- Yu Darvish, on pitching a gem in Dodger Stadium, where he lost Game 7 of the 2017 World Series— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 16, 2019
All of that being said, it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Darvish’s teammates. His great outing helped keep the Cubs in the game, but the gutsy performances of Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Strop are what won the contest.
Dodgers All-Star relief pitcher Kenley Jansen had a 10-game scoreless streak coming into Saturday night, but one swing of Rizzo’s bat was all that was needed to restore balance to the everlasting battle of pitcher versus hitter. After Jansen hit Kris Bryant with a pitch to put him on base, Rizzo activated “clutch mode”, mashing a 400-foot bomb out to right field.
Though small, Saturday night’s homer gives Rizzo a three-game hitting streak, perhaps forecasting that things are trending upwards for the first baseman as the Cubs look to close out the series against the Dodgers with a win on Sunday night. And not to be left out of the fun, Pedro Strop came in to face the Justin Turner, MVP hopeful Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to nail down the save.
Never afraid of high-pressure moments, Stop came through big time.
Strop got a ground out from Turner, struck out Bellinger and Beaty in his 15-pitch save effort. This was a much-needed win for the Cubs, who have well-documented struggles on the road. As they look to split the four-game set with the Dodgers on Sunday night, the Cubs can be pleased with their fight this week.
HUGE comeback win for the #Cubs as they notch their first victory after trailing through 6 innings on the season!— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) June 16, 2019
Darvish was great and Rizzo's 2-run shot in the 9th put the Cubs ahead for good pic.twitter.com/4rxOppQPLS
Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Cubs first win of the season after trailing through six innings, as they were 0-23 in such situations prior to the victory. Amid a season that has been fraught with injury and general roster construction concerns, it was wonderful to see the Cubs pull out a tough win lead by the much-maligned Darvish and the never-quit attitude of his teammates.