Chicago Cubs: These relievers haven’t inspired confidence this spring
Chicago Cubs: Is a rough spring cause for concern?
We all chalked up Kimbrel’s disastrous 2019 showing to an abbreviated ramp-up period and starting his season in the middle of the summer. There was no spring training to get used to live batters again – no conditioning program to help get his body ready for the grind.
It was June and, all of the sudden, after a short spell, he was cast into the fire. The result? The worst stretch of his big league career – one in which he allowed a career-worst nine home runs and got hit hard, to the tune of a 1.597 WHIP across 20 2/3 innings of work.
What made matters worse? Some of his biggest stumbles came against division rivals. Milwaukee hitters put up a 2.083 OPS in three games. Pittsburgh? 1.456. The eventual NL Central champion Cardinals? They tagged Kimbrel to the tune of a 1.712 OPS. It was bad – plain and simple.
"“I think a lot of people want me to prove something to them,” Kimbrel said this spring, “but as far as going into the season trying to prove anything, I’m not doing that. I don’t have a chip on my shoulder, nothing like that.”"
In pretty limited action this spring, the seven-time All-Star hasn’t been what you’d call impressive though. In a pair of outings, he’s allowed two home runs – something that plagued him in 2019. Of the 10 batters he’s faced, four have recorded hits. On Sunday, he failed to finish the inning, recording just two outs (both via the strikeout), allowing a pair of runs on three hits.
It’s far, far too soon to be ready to write off Kimbrel. But the Cubs will definitely need more of the guy who anchored bullpens in Boston and Atlanta and less of the guy who failed to slam the door when it mattered most last year in Chicago.