Chicago Cubs cannot win without a reliable Craig Kimbrel in the ninth

Chicago Cubs / Craig Kimbrel (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Chicago Cubs / Craig Kimbrel (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
Craig Kimbrel / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Was this just a bump in the road for Kimbrel?

The results were nothing short of horrendous. After never surrendering more than one home run per nine over the course of his career, opponents’ long balls plagued him to the tune of a 3.9 HR/9. His 1.597 WHIP marked the high-water mark for Kimbrel in his career. In short, he simply wasn’t the answer the Cubs were looking for.

But that’s in the past – at least that’s what Chicago is hoping. They’re proceeding with caution this spring with the right-hander, who is still ramping up before he’ll appear in live-game action.

"“It doesn’t matter,” Kimbrel said. “I kind of structure to it to where I’m throwing every so many days, just so my body gets used to recovering and coming back and throwing again. That’s what Spring Training is — to get the body ready and get used to be doing what I’m going to be doing for six months.”"

It’s all about the long game this year for Kimbrel. He’s young enough that it’s reasonable to think he can bounce back and once again be the dominant ninth-inning presence he once was. He’ll be playing for David Ross, who went to scout him last year prior to the Cubs offering him a three-year, $43 million deal last summer.

Health will be everything for Kimbrel, who’s once overpowering fastball has taken a sharp downturn in terms of velocity over the last two years. The lost velocity, paired with poor location, has led to hitters teeing off on the pitch more than ever before.