The Craig Kimbrel Era has officially begun. Or, you know, more officially. The closer made his first appearance in live game action Tuesday, pitching a perfect inning for the Iowa Cubs. Kimbrel’s fastball sat 95-96 and he needed only eight pitches to dispatch the Sacramento River Cats in order, tossing six strikes and getting one K on what I-Cubs broadcaster Alex Cohen called “a nasty curveball.”
A perfect 1-2-3 inning. Eight pitches, six strikes. Fastball was 95-96 mph. Struck out last hitter on a nasty curveball.
— Alex Cohen (@voiceofcohen) June 18, 2019
This is a very good sign for both Kimbrel and the Cubs, even if it is just a single frame against minor leaguers. The velocity isn’t topping out quite where you’d like, but the control is even more important. When Kimbrel made mechanical adjustments to throw harder last year, it may have contributed to his highly publicized walk issues.
The Cubs have said they want to make sure their new closer is staying consistent and the thought is that he’ll need about five outings to show that. He’ll also need to prove that he can bounce back well in the day(s) after an appearance, so expect him to throw in back-to-back games before getting the call to Chicago.
With the Iowa Cubs taking Wednesday off before heading home for nine games, it’s entirely possible that Kimbrel could throw Thursday and then even both weekend games. That would give him four appearances and would put him in line to pitch against his old team when the Braves come to Chicago for a four-game set that opens Monday. Even if Kimbrel needs a fifth outing with Iowa, he could be ready by the end of the Braves series.
Get ready, folks, it’s happening soon.