Cubs

Cubs react to reported signing of Craig Kimbrel: ‘This is a huge boost for us’

Cubs react to reported signing of Craig Kimbrel: ‘This is a huge boost for us’

Cubs utility man David Bote reacted likely the same way that Cubs fans did when finding out the team reportedly signed free agent closer Craig Kimbrel.

“Len and JD (Cubs TV broadcasters Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies) go ‘Well, there’s a lot of murmur on Twitter going that Ken Rosenthal reported that Cubs pending a physical sign Kimbrel,’ and I was like, sick,” Bote said emphatically. “That’s awesome, super excited.

“You’ve seen what he does, there’s nothing to say. His reputation speaks for itself.”

Kimbrel’s reputation does speak for itself: 333 career saves (No. 14 all-time in MLB history) and 1.91 ERA (No. 5 in MLB history) in 532 2/3 innings. And for a Cubs team with 11 blown saves this season, Kimbrel should represent nothing but a boost for the bullpen.

“It’s definitely a boost, just obviously when you sign Craig Kimbrel, with what he’s done, winning the World Series last year and what he’s done throughout his career is amazing,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s definitely a big boost for us and just lengthens everything out once he gets here and gets settled in.

“We’re pumped.”

To Rizzo’s point, having Kimbrel in the fold lengthens the Cubs’ relief corps, giving manager Joe Maddon a plethora of options leading up to the ninth inning. Now, Maddon has Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler, Brad Brach, Carl Edwards Jr. available in non-save spots.

With Pedro Strop out for most of May with a hamstring strain and Brandon Morrow on the shelf following a setback from offseason elbow surgery recovery, Maddon had less proven late-game arms available. Thus, before the Cubs added Kimbrel, Maddon had to use one of, if not several of, Cishek, Kintzler and Brach in majority of the team’s close games.

Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester said that adding Kimbrel will lengthen the team’s bullpen.

“I think really the only thing that this move does is lengthen our bullpen,” Lester said. “Now it takes a little bit of pressure off of us as starters when we don’t have our good stuff, where we’re grinding and we’ve got to fill that hole to get to that back end, we’re able to do that probably a little bit easier than we have been.

“Now our bullpen gets a little bit deeper. You’re not worried about matching guys up, and ‘What about tomorrow?’ I feel like we’re able to play that game a little bit more now that we have [Kimbrel], we have [Pedro Strop] back now.” This is a huge boost for us. I hope he can get here soon and get in uniform."

If you based it solely on Cubs Twitter, the sky was falling in Wrigleyville following the team’s 2-7 start to the 2019 season. The Cubs righted the ship with a 32-19 stretch since April 7, however, and both Lester and Rizzo discussed the front office’s belief in the team being a factor in adding Kimbrel.

“I think us playing well and getting to this point that we’re at right now, I think that puts us in a good situation,” Lester said. “I think if we’re not playing that well and our record is a little bit different, that probably changes their outlook on things."

Lester didn’t let the moment slip by without poking fun at PECOTA’s 79-83 projection for the 2019 team.

“That’s a testament to these guys in this clubhouse to get us to this, I guess kind of this juncture, and I don’t want to say put pressure on [the front office] to make a move, but maybe just raise some awareness that we are a lot better than whatever that computer program said we were going to be and we’re in a good position to make a move."

“It’s a credit to them believing in us and credit to us, especially I feel like our hitters,” Rizzo said. “We go through ups and downs, but they believe in us as a unit and to go get a closer like him is a boost for us hitters too.

"We’re trying to win the last game of the season this year, the World Series. It’s not just get to the playoffs and hope for the best. Our expectations are set through the roof."

The Cubs mantra for the 2019 season is "Every Game Matters." For a team that just acquired one of the best shutdown closers MLB has ever seen, their belief in that idea should now be more clear than ever.

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Jason Kipnis' concerns about the quality of baseball upon return

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USA Today

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Jason Kipnis' concerns about the quality of baseball upon return

David Haugh, Charlie Roumeliotis and Adam Hoge join Kap on the panel.

0:45 - Nick Foles is officially a Chicago Bear. Over/under 10.5 starts for him next season.

3:36 - The Cubs' Jason Kipnis takes to Instagram to talk about the quality of baseball if it returns this season. Do fans care what the game looks like or do they just want to watch sports no matter what?

6:37 - ESPN's fan vote crowned Michael Jordan as the greatest college basketball player of all-time. He beat Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kap says MJ is the GOAT but he may not be college hoops' all-time top 5.

8:20 - The guys debate which dunk on Patrick Ewing was the best in Bulls history: Scottie's or Michael's. And they preview the next installment of Bulls Classics- Game 1 of the 1996 East Finals against Shaq and the Magic.

12:08- NBC Sports' national NBA insider Tom Haberstroh joins Kap. Could the NBA resume with teams playing neutral-site games? Tom also explains how the league's social significance will affect its decision when to return and he discusses his favorite era in history.

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Fast or furious? Rush to play in 2020 not worth the risk for Cubs, MLB

Fast or furious? Rush to play in 2020 not worth the risk for Cubs, MLB

Dammit, we want answers. Now.

That might be one of the toughest and ugliest truths in our notoriously impatient country during the coronavirus pandemic, at least for many of us with the luxury of good health as we shelter in place.

Especially for those keeping an eye on any signal or clue from the sports world.

Even before this attention-devoid age of iPhones and binge-viewing on demand, nobody was built more for impatience than sports fans who always have demanded the gratification — if not always quite immediate — of the thrills and agonies of definitive outcomes.

Dammit, we want a final score. Now.

Or at least a schedule. 

The uncertainty and moving timelines are enough to make you throw the Kapman’s MyPillow at the TV.

It’s also what makes this moment so precarious, and the natural rush for answers and a return to live sports so potentially costly.

Even within the initial confusion and hand-wringing Tuesday over whether Toronto’s ban on public events through June specifically included professional sports events (it does not), the news that three players for Japan’s Hanshin Tigers tested positive for COVID-19 seemed almost a footnote.

But, of course, that should be the screaming headline on this whole thing. 

The pro leagues in Japan were pointing toward a delayed start to their season later this month and were back to training for it after “flattening the curve” on the coronavirus cases in that country.

Now it’s all in flux again, and nobody knows when they’ll start that season.

We’re far behind Japan in containing the spread of the virus in this country.

And we’re still talking about starting the baseball season in May or June? Or maybe July at the latest and try to play into October, and push the postseason well into November (maybe at warm-weather, neutral sites)? Into the teeth of the next flu season?

And 40,000 fans at the games? Come on. Playing without fans already is being discussed and is a near certainty for any restart that involves the 2020 calendar. 

By Wednesday nobody was surprised when the Cubs’ London series against the Cardinals in June was officially canceled by MLB. 

Should we be surprised if the entire season meets the same end?

Dammit.

Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis, in an Instagram post Tuesday night, expressed respect for the depth and real-life seriousness of the crisis while also suggesting a far less serious concern about injury risk if baseball rushes players back to the field after a long layoff.

“Not to mention if we start back up and someone (asymptomatic or not) tests positive,” he wrote. “Shut it down again? I don’t know how we’re supposed to have that many tests provided! I really do hope things get better for everyone and there’s baseball this year, but these are just some of the worries creeping into my head that make me think otherwise.”

Ask the Hanshin Tigers and the rest of the Central League in Japan what they think about that right now.

And then consider the risk again.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is a cancer survivor who underwent chemotherapy to recover early in his professional career. Does he bear a greater risk than other players if he contracts the virus?

“I don’t think so. I’m at full strength,” Rizzo said. “All my blood work — it’s not like I’m low on any levels. All my lungs and liver and everything functions like it should be functioning, as it should be functioning as a 30-year-old athlete. So I’m not worried about it.”

Maybe he’s right

On the other hand, healthy people in the teens and 20s with no underlying high-risk conditions reportedly have died because of this virus.

And what about players who do have underlying higher risks, such as asthma, diabetes or blood-pressure issues?

Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow has Type 1 diabetes, as does former Cub Sam Fuld, a Phillies analyst and strategist based in the clubhouse.

Managers Joe Maddon (66) of the Angels and Dusty Baker (70) of the Astros are in the high-risk age range, as are many team support and medical staff who work in and around clubhouses in the majors.

“It’s scary,” Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward said during an interview on WMVP 1000 radio the week after MLB shut down spring training camps. “You don’t prepare for stuff like this.”

Players handle flu bugs, nagging injuries, off-the-field pressures, and often play through those, Heyward said. 

“You can’t really fight this one,” he said. “The best thing to do and the best way to fight is be smart and distance yourself from people and be ready to resume when it is time to resume. It goes without saying we hope it happens sooner than later, but more than anything you just want to hope they get it right and careful.”

But we want answers. Now.

Dammit.

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