Cubs moving toward an enviable spot in arms race


Cubs moving toward an enviable spot in arms race

The Cubs are approaching a territory where they almost have *too much* pitching.

That concept doesn't actually exist, of course — especially for a team expecting to remain in a pennant race and more than half the season remaining on the schedule.

But the Cubs will likely have difficult decisions to make in the near future as Craig Kimbrel nears his Chicago debut while a trio of veteran arms inch closer to a return from their respective injuries.

Kyle Hendricks went on the injured list less than a week ago after experiencing shoulder inflammation following his start in Los Angeles, but he played catch Friday.

"The initial reports are that he's feeling good, but we're not ready to talk through a plan yet or a progression," GM Jed Hoyer said. "But we're happy the initial shutdown has been good. We just want to get him back on a mound as the dominant Kyle Hendricks and not rush him back. There's no reason to do that this time of year."

Hendricks has an impingement in his shoulder, but the Cubs feel confident the inflammation will go away and he'll be back to normal soon. They'll see how he feels after Friday's throwing session and the full shoulder workout he went through Thursday before they make a determination on his next step.

But it still seems unlikely Hendricks will be available to take the ball the next time his spot is due up in the rotation Tuesday, so Adbert Alzolay and Tyler Chatwood remain in contention to fill that start.

Carl Edwards Jr. (back) is nearing the end of his IL stint and offseason signing Tony Barnette seems to have finally moved past the shoulder issue that has delayed his Cubs debut and he's been pitching well in 8 outings for Triple-A Iowa this month (only 1 hit and 1 walk allowed in 7.1 scoreless innings).

"He's been doing well — hearing good stuff right now," Joe Maddon said of Barnette. "What I like is you're seeing this proliferation of arms right now. Everything's building up in a good way 'cause stuff's gonna happen. You can't have enough of that. So the fact that he's doing so well is very encouraging also."

Eventually, the Cubs may have to select a 13-man pitching staff from this group of arms:

Jon Lester
Cole Hamels
Kyle Hendricks
Yu Darvish
Jose Quintana
Tyler Chatwood
Adbert Alzolay
Mike Montgomery
Tony Barnette
Kyle Ryan
Brad Brach
Carl Edwards Jr.
Brandon Kintzler
Steve Cishek
Pedro Strop
Craig Kimbrel

And that's not even including injured veterans Brandon Morrow and Xavier Cedeno or minor-league options like Dillon Maples and Rowan Wick or any other pitcher the front office acquires before the trade deadline.

But of course, baseball has a way of solving those problems for teams whether due to injury or ineffectiveness. 

Hoyer, Maddon and Theo Epstein have been discussing this exact roster crunch for a little while now, including another conversation Thursday night after Alzolay's debut. When Hendricks returns, the Cubs could go with a six-man rotation and slot Alzolay in there as another arm, or they could fold the rookie into the bullpen in some capacity.

Either way, it will be a good problem to have for the Cubs because it will mean Alzolay has forced the issue to remain in the big leagues. 

Right now, the first corresponding move may be simple in that the Cubs could send Wick back to the minors to clear up a spot in the bullpen for Kimbrel. But what happens when Edwards and Hendricks return? What about when Barnette's rehab timeline is up at the end of the month? 

That's what the front office and coaching staff is trying to determine right now.

"We got a nice thing going on conversationally where you got a lot of really good input and then you sprinkle in the analytical component of it also," Maddon said. "I have my ideas, but when it comes to that stuff, I really like the discussion because somebody's gonna have a different thought than you've had and all of a sudden, you come to the right conclusion.

"We're pretty good at that, I think. ... Moving it forward, I just have a lot of confidence in the group discussion."

Kris Bryant and wife Jessica take batting practice at home, with fun twist

Kris Bryant and wife Jessica take batting practice at home, with fun twist

The baseball season is on hold due to COVID-19, but Kris Bryant is still getting his work in.

Sunday, Bryant shared clips of him and his wife, Jessica, taking batting practice in their at-home cage. We know Bryant has a nice swing, but Jessica — who played high school softball — has quite the sweet stroke herself.

Not to be outdone, Bryant wraps up the post by showing a highlight of the home run he hit at the 2016 All-Star game.

Ah, sweet nostalgia.

The Bryant's son is due in the near future, so perhaps we'll get a look at all three in the cage in a couple of years. With an at-home facility, the kid is going to be a stud, right?

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Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel's unique pitching pose stemmed from an injury

Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel's unique pitching pose stemmed from an injury

Craig Kimbrel’s debut season with the Cubs didn’t go well. The closer on a Hall of Fame trajectory went 0-4 with a 6.53 ERA (8.00 FIP) and 1.597 WHIP in 2019, converting 13 of 16 save tries.

Kimbrel had an abnormal preseason last year and didn’t make his season debut until late June. 2020 is a clean slate for the right-hander, but Major League Baseball is looking at an unorthodox season due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Whenever the season starts, Kimbrel has the chance to start fresh and put last year’s struggles behind him. Until then, here’s a few things to know about him:

1. Kimbrel was born in Huntsville, Ala., and played quarterback as a junior and senior at Lee High School. Per a Q&A on his website, the school featured a run-oriented offense, and Kimbrel said he "wasn't really good." Alas.

2. Post-grad, Kimbrel attended Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala. He went 8-0 with a 1.99 ERA as a freshman, leading to the Braves selecting him in the 33rd round of the 2007 draft.

Kimbrel returned to school and improved his draft stock, going 9-3 with a 2.88 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 81 innings as a sophomore. Atlanta drafted him again in 2008, this time in the third round.

3. Kimbrel’s pitching stance is notorious — he bends his torso parallel to the ground and dangles his arm at a 90-degree angle. But he doesn’t do it for kicks. It became too painful for him to hold his arm behind his back in 2010, when he suffered from biceps tendinitis.

Opposing fans have made fun of the stance, but hey, it’s unique.

4. During his time with the Red Sox (2017-18) Kimbrel and his teammates — including David Price, Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts — became avid fans of “Fortnite,” the multiplayer-focused video game that took the world by storm two years ago.

“Let’s say we get back at 11 p.m. from a game, we’ll play until 1 a.m., 1:30 a.m., 2 a.m. depending on what time our game is the next day,” David Price told The Athletic in 2018. “But day games or off days, we can put some time in.”

Same, David. Same.

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