Chicago Cubs: For now, the ninth belongs solely to Kimbrel
Logically, you’d think that struggling players will be given a shorter leash than ever this season. But I genuinely don’t believe that it’ll change all that much – especially with veteran guys who have a proven track record.
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Look at Kimbrel, for example. We’re talking about a guy who has a World Series ring, seven All-Star selections and ranks 13th all-time in saves. If we play a full 2021 season, there’s a good chance he becomes just the seventh pitcher in history with more than 400 saves to his credit.
As a first-year manager, Ross is going to trust his veterans. He almost has to. I understand the Cubs could, at least in theory, have alternatives for the ninth inning. Rowan Wick might get a shot or perhaps Jeremy Jeffress or Dan Winkler? But here’s the simple truth: all of those alternatives are huge question marks in the role – bigger ones than Kimbrel, despite all his struggles last year.
"“All good with Craig,” Ross said. “He was throwing breaking balls for strikes with ease the other day in the bullpen. The ball was jumping out. Good ride on it. All the numbers we’re getting back from the analytical group and the data we’re receiving from these [bullpen sessions] and these live sessions have been great. The pitching staff looks really, really good.”"
Based on everything we’ve heard and seen from the new Cubs skipper, he’s going to trust the analytics and his relationships with guys to make decisions. He’s too familiar with Kimbrel and what he can bring to the table to simply jettison him in lieu of another younger, unproven option – especially given the stakes and the lack of a margin for error this season.