Chicago Cubs: Craig Kimbrel could decide the bullpen’s fate in 2020

Craig Kimbrel (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Craig Kimbrel (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

First impressions aren’t always accurate. At least, Chicago Cubs fans hope that’s the case – after Craig Kimbrel struggled a great deal in his first year.

I was absolutely elated when Craig Kimbrel made his Chicago Cubs debut against the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field. Sitting on a rooftop across the street at a work outing, everyone else was enjoying the libations inside, away from the scorching sun – but my eyes were locked on the left-field bullpen gate.

As Kimbrel trotted in from the pen for the first time in a Cubs uniform, I couldn’t help but have that hopeless sense of optimism anyone who’s ever rooted for a franchise once dubbed the Lovable Losers surely understands. Twenty pitches later, ‘Go Cubs Go’ rang out from the Friendly Confines as the bearded right-hander high-fived his teammates.

But that optimism and excitement quickly abated. Kimbrel got rocked by the Pirates in a mop-up role on July 1, allowing three runs on three hits – including a pair of home runs. Chicago lost that game by an 18-5 final. He followed that up two days later by blowing his first save as a Cub – as Pittsburgh scored twice off him, walking off by a final of 6-5.

He settled in from there, running off eight consecutive scoreless appearances, in which he limited opponents to a .115 average while striking out 11 over those eight frames.