Craig Kimbrel took the next step in his journey to active duty Thursday in Mesa, throwing a 24-pitch BP session to live batters. It’s the first time in several months that he’s thrown to professional hitters, though he had been working out with his neighbor — and a plywood batter silhouette the same neighbor subsequently provided — to stay sharp.
Theo Epstein provided little in the way of details on Kimbrel’s timeline when he spoke to the media ahead of the series opener in LA, saying only that it was still in the “rough draft” stage. What we do know is that Kimbrel will throw at least one more live BP session, after which he may throw in some rookie ball competition or more structure simulated innings before a determination is made on his move to Iowa.
Theo: Kimbrel threw 24 pitches in live BP session today. Will have "at least one more" live BP workout. Epstein was careful not to say what the exact schedule is for Kimbrel. Called the plan a "rough draft" that will go off how the pitcher feels/recovers.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 14, 2019
Arizona Phil of The Cub Reporter was there in Mesa for the action and left a comment on a post with details of the outing.
Cubs closer (in waiting) Craig Kimbrel threw in a three-inning “live” BP/sim-game at Sloan Park (in the stadium) Thursday afternoon. Wearing #24, Kimbrel threw one inning (24 pitches – 15 strikes), facing five batters and striking out three (all swinging), issued no walks, and two balls were put into play (a hard-contact line drive to the outfield & a soft-contact two-hopper to first-base). There were also four foul balls hit into the 1st & 3rd base grandstands.
The competition obviously isn’t close to what he’ll be facing when he comes back up, but that sounds like a decent start. This is basically a late version of spring training for Kimbrel, so it’s all about getting him ramped up to full effort and making sure he’s able to bounce back and do it again in short order. That shouldn’t be a lengthy process for such a seasoned closer, but the Cubs may want to err on the side of caution.
That said, the staff had glowing assessments of his first bullpen session at Wrigley and it sounds as though his velocity and stuff are on point. If he can show consistency in his mechanics and isn’t dealing with any irregular soreness, a late June activation still appears quite possible.