|Cubs get Kimbrel ready for finale vs. Braves|
Craig Kimbrel lingered on the free agent market for more than two months this season before the Chicago Cubs finally signed him.
Kimbrel then waited another few weeks to get his arm in shape at the Cubs' spring training facility and in the minor leagues.
Now, the seven-time All-Star closer finally appears poised to return to the big leagues.
Kimbrel is expected to be activated before the Cubs host the Atlanta Braves in the finale of a four-game series on Thursday afternoon. The 31-year-old flew from Triple-A Iowa to Chicago one day earlier in anticipation of joining the active roster.
Few pitchers feel as fresh as Kimbrel does after an extended time away from the game.
"I've been through a lot in the last year and a half, personally and on the field," Kimbrel told reporters at his introductory news conference. "I don't think waiting around trying to find out who I'm going to work for (this) year has really been the hardest thing I've been through. If anything, there was blessings in it as well. It was good to be home, spend time with family. That was a blessing."
The Cubs believe Kimbrel immediately will upgrade an inconsistent bullpen. He is 31-19 with a 1.91 ERA in 542 relief appearances with the Braves, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox. He has 868 strikeouts in 532 2/3 innings.
Oh, and he has racked up 333 career saves, which ranks 14th on the all-time list. He needs eight saves to match Rollie Fingers for 13th place and 14 saves to pull even with Randy Myers for 12th.
Yet Chicago will need to take a lead into the late innings in order for Kimbrel to get his first save opportunity. That might be easier said than done for the Cubs, who have dropped 10 of 16 games and will try to salvage a series split with the Braves in the finale.
Atlanta will send out right-hander Bryse Wilson (0-0, 8.31 ERA) for his second start of the season and the third of his career. He has given up four runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings this season while walking four and striking out four.
This will be the first career appearance against the Cubs for the 21-year-old Wilson, who was the Braves' fourth-round pick in 2016.
The Braves plugged Wilson into the rotation as a replacement for Mike Foltynewicz, who was sent to the minors over the weekend. Wilson has shined at Triple-A Gwinnett as of late, pitching shutout ball in four of his past eight starts.
"He's right on time and coming off a really good outing," Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Chicago will counter with right-hander Tyler Chatwood (3-1, 3.69 ERA), who will make his 19th appearance (third start) of the year. Chatwood is coming off a June 20 start against the New York Mets in which he allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits in four innings.
In nine games (six starts) against the Braves, Chatwood is 2-2 with a 4.93 ERA. He has walked 22 and fanned 26 in 34 2/3 innings.
--Field Level Media