Craig Kimbrel Will Be Activated Thursday, Tony Barnette Optioned to Make Room

Update: The Cubs have officially recalled Triple-A pitching prospect Craig Kimbrel from Iowa as their “performance over talent” mantra starts to come into play. The 31-year-old righty had been out of baseball for six months, but kept himself fresh by throwing simulated outings to a plywood batter silhouette.

Though he didn’t save a game during his brief Iowa tenure, Kimbrel logged four strikeouts with one walk and allowed two hits (double, homer) over 3.2 innings. He’ll be available out of the bullpen as the Cubs take on the Braves in Thursday’s series finale.

Craig Kimbrel will join the Cubs as a member of the active roster in time for Thursday’s series finale with his former team, Joe Maddon told the media after Wednesday’s loss. Whether he’ll make an appearance, however, is another story. After all, you need to have a late lead in order to call on the closer to lock down the 9th inning.

Kimbrel was perfect Tuesday night in his final outing with the Iowa Cubs, touching 96 and striking out two to finish off the Omaha Storm Chasers. He said upon signing with Chicago that he relished the ability to pitch in front of huge crowds like those he’d see at Wrigley, so it seemed from the start that they’d be trying to work out a home debut.

And though Kimbrel will still be pitching in front of mostly Cubs fans in Cincinnati over the weekend, the adrenaline of running out to face the Braves is surely something he wants to experience. He’d probably like to do it in an actual save situation, but I’m thinking the home crowd, not to mention all those following along on TV or the radio, would be just fine with a blowout win.

In order to make room on the roster, the Cubs will option Tony Barnette back to Iowa. The righty had been lights-out during his second rehab stint, but wasn’t very sharp in two appearances against the Braves and would probably have been unavailable for a couple days anyway after pitching twice in three games. I mean, it’s not like he’s Steve Cishek.

This move also likely means another start for Adbert Alzolay, who’s being used as part of a six-man rotation while Kyle Hendricks works through a shoulder impingement on the IL. There’ll be more decisions to make once Hendricks is activated, with the potential for trades, options, designations for assignment, and totally real IL stints due to injuries that are not at all due to poor performance.

But we’ll cross those bridges when we come to them. In the meantime, prepare yourself for all manner of Kimbrel impersonations. How many people do you think are going to fall over trying to do his pre-pitch arm-dangle setup? There’s a non-zero chance someone spills a beer on the person in front of them the first time Kimbrel comes in.

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