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 Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Kimbrel needs to be the stopper for the club

Last year, the Cubs had options when it came to the ninth. Maybe they weren’t a lot of high-confidence arms, but Pedro Strop and Brandon Kintzler both had ninth-inning experience and Steve Cishek seemed capable of getting outs in any type of situation.

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This time around, the ninth unquestionably belongs to Kimbrel. Ross and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy are hoping to piece together a bullpen without Strop, Kintzler or Cishek – all of whom departed via free agency this offseason. There is no alternative, especially with Brandon Morrow already sidelined with an injury this spring.

"“What he went through last year, he knows how tough that is,” Hottovy said. “That’s a hard thing for somebody to do. So to be in this environment again and back with the team in Spring Training has just kind of put him at ease, for sure … And I think he’s got a really good plan of what he wants to accomplish this spring, and we’re able to map out six weeks of activity, not just three trying to get him ready for games.”"

Routine is everything for pitchers. Kimbrel has plenty of time to rewrite the narrative surrounding him on the North Side of Chicago, much the same as Yu Darvish has already begun to do so after making just eight starts in an ineffective, injury-plagued debut campaign.

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If we’re to believe the Cubs have a shot at returning to the postseason after an offseason of inactivity, you have to think Kimbrel has a huge role to play. We all know about the firepower this offense could bring – but with more questions than ever in the bullpen, Kimbrel has to be an answer.