Craig Kimbrel Surrenders Tank, Hopes He Still Has Some Left in His

Craig Kimbrel sat mid-90’s with the fastball and his curve showed good bite Wednesday, excellent signs for his first spring training appearance in two years. Both of those pitches earned swinging strikeouts, with a grounder to first sandwiched in between, so it was a successful outing by most accounts.

“I was able to throw the ball for the most part where I wanted to, ball was coming out good,” Kimbrel said afterwards. “Overall, it felt like it was a good day.”

I’m not sure whether it was Gordon Wittenmyer or his editor, but the Sun-Times article on the Kimbrel’s effort linked the last bit of that quote to the corresponding Ice Cube music video. No one saw the lights of a blimp overhead, but the game was played in Goodyear and Derek Dietrich pimped that homer he hit against a center-cut Kimbrel heater.

Not to be upstaged by the vapor tray of Axe body spray, all-time great Cubs new Reds reliever Pedro Strop joked with reporters that his old locker — now inhabited by Javy Báez — probably stills smells like his cologne. Strop isn’t around to set Kimbrel up this season, nor do the Cubs have a clear fill-in should the closer run into additional issues with health or control.

That may not be as pressing an issue as last season, since, even after giving up the tank, Kimbrel said he still had a little left in his. He didn’t seem entirely sure, though.

“I hope so, yeah,” he said when asked if he still had a little more left on the fastball. “There should be. That was a good sign for the first time off the bump.”

After giving up nine dingers in just 20.2 innings (3.92 K/9) last season, he’d sure as hell better not be running on fumes in 2020. The 31-year-old refined his offseason training routine to better protect his knees and David Ross has brought him along slowly in camp so far. Now that he’s pitched in an actual game, however, it’s time to crank the incline as he ramps up.

The plan is for Kimbrel to make eight Cactus League appearances, which I think means he’s got [pauses to count] seven left to hit that mark. Adding another gallon of gas and keeping the curve tight will get him much better mileage, now the Cubs just need to hope the wheels don’t fall off again.

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